Saturday, January 5, 2008

Comment Published on CNN About Parallels Between Blog Burning by Vancouver and Saudi Arabian Governments

Carnegie Board member, Rachel Davis, notified the DTES Enquirer of a CNN piece by Hala Gorani, "Friends Stand Up for Jailed Blogger", about a jailed blogger in Saudi Arabia. There are parallels between this case and the Bill Simpson case. The following comment by the DTES Enquirer was left on
Inside the Middle East, Gorani's blog on the CNN website.


The jailing of a blogger in Saudi Arabia for criticizing the government is not that different from what has happened in Canada.

Police were called by Vancouver City government staff and managers on citizens believed to be associated with the Downtown Eastside Enquirer blog which criticized City government supervisors and managers. In fact a comment remains on the DTES Enquirer blog from Vancouver Police Detective Mark Fenton requesting that someone from the blog contact him.

One suspected blogger received a visit from a police detective at his home. The detective admitted that no charges would be laid as it had been determined that the content of the blog was not false, but he issued a warning that he had grave concerns about the content of the blog.

Even a homeless Vancouver man, William “Bill” Simpson, received an email from a Vancouver police officer who wanted to speak to him about the content of the Downtown Eastside Enquirer blog on which he was believed to be blogging. Simpson told the officer that he wasn’t a blogger.

The calling of police on citizens suspected of being associated with the Downtown Eastside Enquirer blog is part of a campaign of harassment by the Vancouver City government to apparently deter blogging. In Jan. 2007, a Carnegie staff person led Simpson to the office of Carnegie Head of Security where he was told that he was banned from the Carnegie Learning Center (on the third floor of Carnegie Community Center) for daring to blog on the Downtown Eastside Enquirer. Simpson wasn’t even a blogger.

In June 2007, Simpson was elected to the Carnegie Board of Directors by low income Downtown Eastside residents upset that he had been banned from the Carnegie Learning Center. Two weeks later, a City government manager, Ethel Whitty, personally delivered Simpson a letter on City of Vancouver government stationery signed by a top City manager, Jacquie Forbes-Roberts, informing him that he was now banned from the entire Carnegie Community Center. The reason given in the letter for the banning was that Simpson operates a website that “features links” to the Downtown Eastside Enquirer blog. Simpson asked Whitty if he could enter the Carnegie building to attend Board meetings and she said no. He also asked Whitty to identify anything on the blog that was inaccurate. She offered nothing.

At one point City managers and supervisors at the City-run Carnegie Community Center were accused of launching a witch hunt for bloggers. A long term volunteer at Carnegie said that four government managers and/or supervisors separately interrogated him about whether a female friend of his was blogging. Two teachers also teamed up and interrogated him. And he was not the only person encouraged to turn in suspected bloggers. It was after those interrogations in Jan. 2007 that Bill Simpson ended up banned.

For the entire year of 2007, criticisms of the Vancouver City government for their persecution of bloggers were kept alive on the internet. Only in the last couple of weeks has Vancouver’s mainstream media, the Vancouver Sun and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Radio, picked up the story.

Nobody in Vancouver has yet been jailed for blogging. But the Vancouver government is moving dangerously close to Saudi intimidation tactics to deter criticism of government by bloggers.

7 comments:

rachel davis said...

The Carnegie board is meeting on Thurs. the 10th at 5:30 to select two new board members.

I can tell you, it's really fun being on the board, and you meet a lot of interesting people. You just need to have been a member for 60 days prior to the election, and not be under 16. Having more than about 15 people to vote for you helps too.
Who wants to help out? Your Community Centre needs you!

rachel davis said...

The Carnegie board is meeting on Thurs. the 10th at 5:30 to select two new board members.

I can tell you, it's really fun being on the board, and you meet a lot of interesting people. You just need to have been a member for 60 days prior to the election, and not be under 16. Having more than about 15 people to vote for you helps too.
Who wants to help out? Your Community needs you. I hope you can see that a few people can make difference, just imagine what a few more could do

Dag said...

The outline of the Simpson case is now at CNN International, thanks to Rachel's help in singling out the story of a Saudi blogger in a situation similar to Simpson's.

http://www.cnn.com/CNNI/Programs/middle.east/blog/2008/01/jailed-blogger-update.html

Covenant Zone is also covering this story, and will I at No Dhimmitude.

Why all the interest? Because I am the blogger. I am Bill Simpson. And so, friend,are you.

We are all Bill Simpson!

rachel davis said...

That's wonderful that this is getting everywhere on the web, both in blogs and otherwise. The more we reach out to mainstream media the better. It's not like I want the Carnegie to have bad press, it just seems it's the only way to reach them. It's ironic that a person can get CBC, with over a million listeners, to care about the William Simpson story for three days in a row, but when a member at a meeting asks a question about the barred board member, they are told that people are barred every day, and why should the Board concern it's self? It's just surreal.

I'd also like to remind people that William Simpson, of course, has his own coverage of himself and his ideas on Timetender.ca

Dag said...

Those concerned about the Simpson case can meet tomorrow at McDonald's on Main at Terminal st. for coffee and discussion at noon. Those interested in the larger issue of free speech in a democracy might wish to join in, this being a larger story than Bill, one that effects us all, though here and now Simpson is he face of the story. If we don't support Simpson, who will stand for us when it's our turn to bet burned?

Rememeber this?

Original:

Als die Nazis die Kommunisten holten,
habe ich geschwiegen;
ich war ja kein Kommunist.

Als sie die Sozialdemokraten einsperrten,
habe ich geschwiegen;
ich war ja kein Sozialdemokrat.

Als sie die Gewerkschafter holten,
habe ich nicht protestiert;
ich war ja kein Gewerkschafter.

Als sie die Juden holten,
habe ich geschwiegen;
ich war ja kein Jude.

Als sie mich holten,
gab es keinen mehr, der protestieren konnte.

Translation:

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn't a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

I am Bill Simpson.

I am the Blogger.

rachel davis said...

12:00 eh?
I'll try to be there.
Good idea,
RLD

Dag said...

See you there.