Voting Blogs: Censorship and conspiracy theories rule the day in post-election Turkey | openDemocracy

Turkey reached the end of an early election period that saw bombings, mob violence, the burning of party offices, political arrests, a nationwide media clampdown and military curfew in the Kurdish region of the country. After failing to establish a majority government in the 7 June elections, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) won a landslide victory with 49 percent of the popular vote. Ranging from announcements of a “Ballot Box Revolution” to “Fear’s Triumph,” media responses differed drastically. TV coverage of joyful celebrations by AKP supporters on the streets were matched with a sense of shock and incredulity circulating through social media among the supporters of opposition parties. They have been sharply awakened from the dream of ending the AKP’s monopoly over state power and preventing the implementation of a ‘Turkish-style’ super presidency. In the wake of these general elections, what is it about Turkey’s media culture that it undergirds the formation of a society so divided, that people seem to inhabit parallel realities?

Belarus: Presidential Elections: Will They Actually Count the Votes? | Belarus Digest

On 11 October, Belarus will hold presidential elections. The Belarusian authorities try to create an image of democratic elections at a time when Alexander Lukashenka looks weak due to the economic recession. Realistically no one expects a fair vote count. The official results will be produced to bring victory to Alexander Lukashenka. But there are three things that can significantly change the perception of the campaign: access to the vote count, the number of votes against Lukashenka and the post-election period. These elections differ from the 2006 and 2010 presidential elections. Although the nature of the political regime remains the same: a small amount of opposition in election commissions, forcing students and civil servants to vote in advance or lack of system liberalisation, many minor improvements have actually taken place.

China: Hong Kong Democracy Poll Puts Beijing in a Corner | US News & World Report

A 10-day unofficial pro-democracy referendum opened in Hong Kong on June 20, attracting higher-than-expected turnout and angering China’s central government in Beijing. Organized by pro-democracy group Occupy Central, the referendum offers voters a choice of three reform plans for the election of Hong Kong’s chief executive, all of which include public nomination of candidates, an idea rejected by Beijing. Despite massive cyberattacks blamed on mainland China, more than 700,000 online and in-person voters cast ballots in the first three days of voting. Beijing, as expected, was deeply displeased. Chinese state-run media attacked the referendum as an “illegal farce” that is “tinged with mincing ludicrousness.” Chinese media, officials in Beijing, and pro-Beijing officials in Hong Kong have been unrelenting in their efforts to discredit the referendum process, calling it “invalid” and raising suspicions of an “inflated turnout due to the flawed online voting system.” Chen Zuo’er, former deputy director of China’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office said that the referendum was not a valid indicator of how Hong Kong residents wanted to elect their chief executive. “The media have reported that there are dishonest elements during the process of conducting the public vote, which will result in its failure to truly reflect public opinion,” said Chen, without elaborating on these claims.

Minnesota: Tea party and political buttons: Supreme Court declines Minnesota case |

The US Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up a case testing a Minnesota law that bans the wearing of buttons or clothing with messages that election officials deem too political to be worn within 100 feet of any polling place. The justices took the action in a one-line order without comment. It lets stand a federal appeals court decision upholding the statute. The Minnesota law seeks to prevent campaigning and electioneering by candidates and their supporters at the locations where voters are casting their ballots. But an array of conservative groups challenging the statute said it went far beyond preventing electioneering and violated the free speech rights of voters to express broader political ideas without facing government censorship.

Iran: President-elect Hassan Rouhani hails win | BBC

Hassan Rouhani has hailed his election as Iran’s president as a “victory of moderation over extremism”. The reformist-backed cleric won just over 50% of the vote and so avoided the need for a run-off. Thousands of Iranians took to the streets of Tehran when the result was announced, shouting pro-reform slogans. The US expressed concern at a “lack of transparency” and “censorship” but praised the Iranian people and said it was ready to work with Tehran. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged continued international pressure on Iran to curb its nuclear programme. “The international community must not give in to wishful thinking or temptation and loosen the pressure on Iran for it to stop its nuclear programme,” Mr Netanyahu told his cabinet, according to a statement released by his office.

Iran: Green Movement activists live in fear as Iran’s presidential election nears |

Nearly four years have passed since the birth of Iran’s green movement. Arising from the massive street protests against the official results of the 2009 presidential election, it endured brutal repression and finally receded in the face of arrests, beatings, and torture. Three of its most prominent figures – Mir-Hossein Mousavi, his wife, Zahra Rahnavard, and Mehdi Karroubi – have been under house arrest for more than two years. Other movement leaders are in prison or exile. According to a recent report by the Committee to Protect Journalists, Iranian authorities are holding at least 40 journalists in prison as the June presidential election approaches, the second-highest total in the world. But what has become of others in the movement’s middle ranks inside the country, the political activists and journalists who stayed back?

Equatorial Guinea: Facebook and opposition websites blocked ahead of elections | Reuters

Reporters Without Borders condemns the government’s blocking of access to Facebook and certain opposition websites since 12 May. The targets include the site of the main opposition party, Convergence For Social Democracy (CPDS), which is fielding candidates for the 26 May parliamentary and municipal elections. At the same time, the website of the ruling Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea (PDGE) continues to be fully accessible.

Iran: Reformists become targets of crackdown before election | Washington Times

Iran’s rulers are nervous as they prepare for elections in June and hope to avoid the massive street protests that followed the disputed presidential ballot in 2009. The reformist opposition is calling for free elections, and other critics are accusing the theocratic regime of planning to steal the vote. For three months, authorities have been cracking down on dissent in anticipation of the June 14 elections. In February, police arrested 19 journalists working for reform-minded media. On March 6, Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi announced that his ministry had identified a group of 600 “seditious” journalists and “dealt them a blow.” About two weeks later, authorities detained reformist politician Hossein Loghmanian and four associates en route to a meeting with former President Mohammad Khatami, a reformist. The authorities also have shut down most of the private computer networks that allow Iranians to circumvent Internet censorship.

Iran: VPN use blocked ahead of elections | Wired UK

The Iranian government has blocked the use of most VPNs in the country, three months ahead of the presidential election. “Within the last few days illegal VPN ports in the country have been blocked,” head of Iran’s information and communications technology committee Ramezanali Sobhani-Fard confirmed to Iran’s Mehr news agency on 10 March. “Only legal and registered VPNs can from now on be used.” Project Ainita, a non-profit championing internet freedom in places like Iran, flagged up the issue at the end of February when access to encrypted international sites using a SSL proxy appeared to be impossible. “Email, proxies and all the secure channels that start with ‘https’ are not available,” a Tehran-based technology expert told Reuters.

Ecuador: Electoral law dulls reporting as Correa nears re-election | Committee to Protect Journalists

It’s by far the dullest space in the newspaper: Every day in El Universo, Ecuador’s leading daily, readers can find eight small photos and news blurbs summing up the activities of the eight presidential candidates. The articles are the same size and blocked together in a layout that resembles a tic-tac-toe game, minus the ninth square. This drab coverage is one result of reforms to the electoral law that took effect in February 2012, which prohibit biased reporting on electoral campaigns and allows candidates to sue reporters and news outlets who allegedly violate the law. To avoid lawsuits, El Universo’s editors have set aside an inside page of the newspaper devoting equal space to everyone from the frontrunner–President Rafael Correa, who is seeking a third term–to fringe candidates. That may sound like fair and balanced reporting, but it’s also shallow. Journalists and press analysts told CPJ that the electoral law has made it far more difficult to pursue aggressive, investigative reporting ahead of the February 17 presidential and legislative elections.

Iran: Iran Begins Its Election-Season Web Crackdown a Few Months Early | The Atlantic

Iran appears to be taking measures to tighten online censorship ahead of its presidential vote. In recent days, a long list of online activities has been designated as criminal, including calling for an election boycott, organizing sit-ins or protests, and insulting presidential candidates. Simultaneously, reports by Iran’s Fars and ISNA news agencies say that linking to Facebook, Twitter, and other websites that are blocked in Iran, or even promoting blocked websites, has also become a crime. Iran is already one of the world’s harshest online censors. The regime bans tens of thousands of websites it considers immoral or a threat to national security, including news websites and social-media sites. The new measures, if enforced, would put increased pressure on people who use the web or social media as platforms for online activism.

Iran: Iran: 48 million voters denied information, 48 journalists denied freedom | Reporters Without Borders

On the eve of tomorrow’s parliamentary elections in Iran, Reporters Without Borders condemns the censorship imposed on the media, which prevents them from playing their role during the polling, and the continuing, relentless crackdown on journalists. Iran’s 48 million voters are being denied the independently-reported news and information they need to make a choice. The crackdown on journalists and netizens has intensified. No independent media has been spared the political and judicial harassment that the various ruling clans have orchestrated since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s disputed reelection in June 2009. A total of 48 journalists and netizens are currently detained, making Iran the world’s third biggest prison for the media.

Russia: Putin may win the election but for Russia political stability is over |

Supporters of Vladimir Putin are treating his win of the presidential election on 4 March as a foregone conclusion – and they’re probably right. Yet as the old adage goes: “Be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it.” Even as the opposition’s protest movement in Russia continues unabated, Putin remains the most popular politician in the country. He has no strong competitor in this election – according to the latest data from the Levada-Center, Russia’s largest independent polling agency, 63 to 66% of voters who say they are coming to the polls will cast their ballot for Putin. Putin himself has warned that protest rallies following the elections could turn dangerous, because provocateurs from abroad are looking for a “sacrificial lamb” among the famous opposition members. None of this – the numbers, Putin’s own view of the situation – is all that surprising. But what makes for genuine news is that whichever way you cut it, Putin’s third term in the Kremlin is going to be difficult in an unprecedented way; because this much is clear – his government faces an inevitable decline.

Ecuador: In Ecuador, reforms restrict election coverage for media | Committee to Protect Journalists

Reforms to Ecuador’s electoral law that will take effect on February 4 could hamper the ability of the country’s journalists to cover political campaigns and elections, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. The government of President Rafael Correa, who is expected to seek re-election next year, promoted the legislation, which was passed on January 10, to reform the country’s electoral law. However, press freedom groups told CPJ that the new legislation included broadly worded provisions that could result in vast censorship. Under the reforms, “almost any reporting that is published or transmitted during an electoral campaign” could be considered illegal, the Quito-based media group the Ecuadoran Journalists Forum, said in a communiqué.

Russia: Journalists Fired After Tough Election Coverage | Post Gazette

A high-ranking editor and a top executive from one of Russia’s most respected news publications were dismissed on Tuesday after an apparent conflict over coverage that appeared to highlight widespread anger with the results of parliamentary elections this month. The dismissals followed the publication this week of an election issue of the newsmagazine Kommersant Vlast, which detailed accusations of large-scale electoral fraud by the ruling party, United Russia, and included a photograph of a ballot scrawled with profanity directed against Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin.

The firings came as tensions built between the Kremlin and a new constituency of reform-minded activists who held a protest against the election results here last weekend that drew tens of thousands of people. President Dmitri A. Medvedev announced on Tuesday that the first session of the new parliament would be held on Dec. 21, an indication that the Kremlin would not concede to increasingly vocal calls for new elections.

Meanwhile, the leaders of the protest movement met to plan what they said would be an even bigger demonstration on Dec. 24, and vowed not to relent in their demands. The tremors from this standoff have been particularly acute in the city’s print and online newsrooms. Under Mr. Putin, the authorities have generally tolerated a community of liberal-minded journalists whose criticism of the Kremlin has often been withering, but not widely broadcast.

Russia: Kremlin-Connected Oligarch Fires Publishing Execs Over Vote Coverage |

Kremlin-friendly oligarch Alisher Usmanov has fired two senior managers of the respected Kommersant publishing group over one of its publications’ coverage of alleged violations during the recent Duma elections. Usmanov says he was particularly upset about the publication of a photograph showing an obscene slogan addressed toward Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, which he described as “bordering on petty hooliganism.”

Usmanov fired the general director of the Kommersant-Holding group, Andrei Galiyev, and the editor in chief of the newsweekly “Kommersant-Vlast,” Maksim Kovalsky. In response, the general director of the Kommersant publishing group, Demyan Kudryavtsev, submitted his resignation in protest.