The public sphere’s new enemies


All around the world, it seems, the walls are closing in on the space that people need to assemble, associate, express themselves freely, and register dissent, notes Chris Stone, president of the Open Society Foundations.

There is no simple formula for regulating public space or safeguarding peaceful political dissent in an age of terrorism and globalization. But two basic principles are clear, he writes:

  • First, the world needs stronger international governance of the movement of people and money, and fewer restrictions on speech, association, and dissent. Lately, governments have been moving in the wrong direction. But 2016 offers plenty of opportunities for correction, in areas ranging from trade to migration.
  • Second, nonprofit organizations working to improve public policy need the same rights to secure international funding as for-profit entrepreneurs seeking to provide goods and services. Foreign direct investment should be encouraged, not hindered, regardless of whether it will support goods production and job creation or stronger public policies and more active citizenship.

Russia’s new security strategy makes some symbolic changes to the 2009 version’s description of the country’s main national interests, notes one observer:

While the previous document listed the development of democracy, civil society, and the economy, the new edition addresses the strengthening of Russia’s defenses, and ensuring the inviolability of the country’s “constitutional order,” independence, and territorial integrity. Other prominent interests now include strengthening the “national consensus” and political and social stability. The new strategy stresses the dangers foreign and international non-governmental organizations pose to Russia’s constitutional order.

The Russian media often uses conspiracy theories to create division and paranoia, notes former Russia Today anchor Liz Wahl [right]:

The Russian state-funded station was part of a larger propaganda campaign portraying [Ukraine’s Maidan] protesters as bloodthirsty fascists in an effort to misrepresent the conflict and justify Russian action. As the death toll grew, I was horrified to be part of what was becoming a manipulation machine. After the Ukraine coverage ended, I resigned, live on air, referencing the bias as the reason for my decision.


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