Panel Discussion


27 October 2012

Location: Theater Kikker

Together with Hivos, Impakt will be organising a panel discussion on online freedom of speech. The internet and social media play a major role in democratisation processes. However to freely and openly express your opinion is far from safe in many countries. For example, blogger Bassel Khartabil has been held prisoner by the Syrian authorities since March 2012.

In unstable societies – but not only there – the media are under a lot of pressure. Censorship, prosecution of journalists, suspension of the freedom of press, restriction of cell phone and internet traffic occur frequently. Free exchange of information, possibilities for expression and active citizin participation are essential conditions for a dynamic and democratic society.

Representatives of various important parties in and outside the Arab world will participate in the Hivos Free Internet Pane

Moderation: Kirsten van den Hul (AD newspaper columnist, independent change agent and UN Women’s representative 2011)

The panel:

Harout Ekmanian (Syria/Armenia) is a freelance journalist and lawyer from Aleppo. His articles and reports have been published in newspapers across Syria, Lebanon, Armenia, Iran, Turkey, UAE, Argentina, Greece, France and USA. Currently he is the licensee of Tokyo based PechaKucha Nights in Aleppo, which is a series of worldwide creative social events and gatherings, besides he is working on development projects and workshops supporting the preservation and revitalization of cultural heritage.

Mohamad Najem (Lebanon) is the co-founder of Social Media Exchange (SMEX), located in Beirut, Lebanon. SMEX trains non-governmental organizations, civil society groups, political party members in the strategic use of the Internet for social change in English and Arabic.Over the past two years, as Internet access has improved in Lebanon, SMEX has focused on promoting the power of social media for social change among diverse communities through trainings all over Lebanon.

Jillian C. York (USA)  is Director for International Freedom of Expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. She writes regularly about free expression, politics, and the Internet, with particular focus on the Arab world.  She is on the Board of Directors of Global Voices Online, and has written for a variety of publications, including Al Jazeera, The Atlantic, The Guardian, Foreign Policy, and Bloomberg.

Rami Jarrah (Syria/UK) is a pro-democracy activist, founder of  The ANA New-Media Association that would become Syria’s first independent free media agency. Was often cited by international media outlets under the pseudonym Alexander Page during the Syrian civil war.

Sanne Stevens (The Netherlands) is a sociologist, and completely hooked into the world wide web and all its diverse voices. She currently works for the Dutch NGO Hivos as web-editor and is coordinator of the #Delete Control net-freedom campaign.

Zafka Zhang (China) is co-founder of China Youthology, a boutique consultancy that works on consumer insights for marketing, communica- tions, and product design, targeting Chinese youth. Also, he used to be the head of research at HiPiHi (a leading Chinese virtual world platform), a lead adviser for the Association of Virtual Worlds (global industry association), a project member with Creative Commons in China, and is still a bona fide expert on Chinese subcultures, music, art, and digital marketing.

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