Russian Actions against Greenpeace International Part of a Familiar Trend

Last week, the CGP blog commented on the state of the CSO sector in Russia amidst the oncoming 2014 Winter Olympic Games in the country. The highly controversial interactions between the environmental group Greenpeace International and the Russian government in the past weeks align with the past grievances we reported on:

A Russian coastguard official points a knife at a Greenpeace International activist who tried to scale an oil platform owned by state-owned energy giant Gazprom (Source: Denis Sinyakov/Greenpeace).

30 people from 18 countries detained on the Greenpeace International ship “Arctic Sunrise” are awaiting trial on piracy charges and face up to 15 years in prison if convicted related to a September 18th  incident in which some of the activists tried to scale an oil rig in the Pechora Sea owned by the national oil-giant Gazprom. The activists may spend up to two months in pre-trial detention in a Murmansk jail awaiting the decision of Russian prosecutors. Greenpeace International director Kumi Naidoo called the seizure of the vessel and the arrest of its crew the worst “assault” on the environmental activist organization since one of its ships was bombed in 1985. The detained activists are reportedly being kept in “solitary confinement for 23 hours a day,” while others are held in “extremely cold cells.” Russian officials have called the protest “pure provocation” and an “encroachment on the sovereignty” of Russia.

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Internet Petitions: Activism or “Slacktivism”?

Recently, the tragic events in Syria have dominated international attention. Most people watch with horror as Bashar al-Assad brutally represses his people and commits countless human rights abuses. Many members of the opposition have been viciously tortured, generating a self-righteous outrage and a rhetorical call to action. A sentiment common to this issue, however, is helplessness. Other than physically going to Syria, what can a concerned citizen possibly do about the issue of Syrian torture, while being removed from the actual events? Actually, the answer is: quite a lot.

Source: classicvb.org

Enter the online petition. A relatively new practice, the concept has its roots in the age-old activity of collecting signatures to call for some kind of action— a tool for the masses to put pressure on those in power. These petitions can range from the serious (for example, a call for the UN to declare crimes against humanity against Syrian torturers) to the less pressing (such as a push for the construction of a local skate park).  Instead of collecting actual John Hancocks, however, an online petition accumulates virtual pledges that serve the same purpose. One simply needs an Internet connection and a clickable mouse in order to support and enact change. Continue reading