Spanish authorities lie about immigrant tragedy

Background

Spain has two enclaves in Morocco, Ceuta and Melilla, and migrants from all over Africa regularly try to reach them, mostly by climbing the border fence that separate them from Morocco.

The border fence consists of 6.8 miles of parallel 10 feet high fences with razor-wire, regular watch posts, CCTV, spotlights, noise and movement sensors, and a road running between them for police patrols. Deaths and injuries are common and have increased since razor wire was installed.

There are more migrants now who attempt to reach a seawall that separates the Spanish territory from Morocco, as seen in this map published by El Pais:

The seawall that separates the Spanish territory from Morocco. An info graph from elpais.com

The seawall that separates the Spanish territory from Morocco. An info graph from elpais.com

The news

On February 6 fifteen immigrants died off the coast while trying to swim around the seawall to reach the Spanish enclave. Spanish Civil Guard, who was alerted by Moroccan security forces that the migrants were approaching, didn’t admit any responsibility in the tragedy.

Migrants who survived accused the Civil Guard of firing their weapons at them while they were in the water, rubber bullets included, which caused the panic that resulted in the tragedy. Head of Civil Guard and Spanish Government denied it and lied about the circumstances surrounding the tragedy.

Some reactions

1. NGOs released videos, pictures and interviews with surviving migrants showing that panic set in as Civil Guards began firing tear gas and rubber bullets at those attempting to swim. [Examinations by the Northern Observatory for Human Rights on some of those who died confirm that some had marks indicating they had been shot by rubber bullets. The observatory also stated that the Civil Guards did not assist the migrants or alert the rescue coastguards].

One of the survivors shows wounds caused by rubber bullet. Image was distributed by Caminando Fronteras NGO

One of the survivors shows wounds caused by rubber bullet. Image was distributed by Caminando Fronteras NGO

2. European Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström immediately said on twitter that European Commissions wanted an explanation about why police fired rubber bullets in warning.

Captura de pantalla 2014-04-08 a la(s) 23.06.00

She got tons of replies, mainly from Spanish people, saying things like these:

Captura de pantalla 2014-04-08 a la(s) 23.09.36

EU has asked Spain for an independent investigation.

3. People organized themselves online and protests took place in 15 Spanish cities to condemn the death of the migrants. Placards proclaimed, “They didn’t drown, they were murdered,” “Natives or foreigners, we’re all the same”, “No one is illegal,” and “Where are the pro-lifers now?” (In reference to those who support the new restrictive Abortion Law being prepared by the Spanish government run by the Conservative Party).

Madrid protest. a picture of Jairo Vargas for Publico.com

Madrid protest. a picture of Jairo Vargas for Publico.com

4. Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Díaz was forced to appear at the Parliament. He acknowledged that Civil Guard officers fired their anti-riot weapons, contradicting an earlier version.

5. Almost 200.000 people have signed a petition demanding the minister resignation because of the tragedy and manipulation carried out by state forces to cover his speech.

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MAS S61 final project 1st draft

For the final class project, I want to do something with the data collected from the University of Hong Kong Journalism and Media Studies Centre’s WeiboScope Search project. In class last week, Ethan Zuckerman suggested that one option may be to do an online art piece using the most censored Chinese words on Sina Weibo. Out of curiosity, I did a draft of the 100 most censored Chinese words on Sina Weibo to see what came up. Here’s a quick translation of the most censored Chinese words:

转发微博 retweet weibo (simplified Chinese)
retweet
转发 retweet
轉發微博 retweet weibo (traditional Chinese)
哈哈 ha ha
偷笑 smile
嘻嘻 hee hee
呵呵 he he
ha
哈哈哈 ha ha ha
蜡烛 candle
anger
吃惊 surprise
tears
围观 crowd
话筒 microphone
思考 think
praise
威武 mighty
求证 confirm
decline
挖鼻屎 pick boogers

The most common words are the Chinese equivalent of “retweet” or “RT.” The next most common are expressions, such as “ha ha” or “anger.” It doesn’t make much sense that the 50 cent party are simply censoring emotions. I’ll need to figure out a way to come up with a way to dig one layer deeper.

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