Myanmar Feature | Muslims

The Radical Intolerance of Fake News in Myanmar’s Internet Debut

The debate over fake news and disinformation took center stage in the post-election analysis in the U.S. Facebook in particular has come to stand as an avatar of disinformation tactics, with the rapid spread of factually incorrect stories on the social media platform having contributed, some analysts argue, to the outcome of the election. On the other side of the planet, Myanmar has seen its own struggles with digital information culture as it has begun rapidly digitizing in the wake of its transition to civic government in 2015. As conflict between Muslims and Buddhists in the majority-Buddhist nation has deepened in recent months, false and sensationalist stories masquerading as news have contributed to anti-Muslim sentiment in the country, further inflaming tensions.BuzzFeed News examines how Myanmar is integrating online information culture into both civic and everyday life as its complicated relationship to diversity, inclusion, and free expression is being challenged in countries with longer histories of online engagement.

How Facebook Spreads Fake News And Anti-Muslim Views In Myanmar” (BuzzFeed News)

(Image Credit: Minzayar Oo/BuzzFeed News)

Taiwan News | LGBT

Taiwan inches closer to becoming first Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage
  • Three separate bills have begun moving through the Taiwanese legislative process to extend family and partnership rights to same-sex couples in the country, with advocates cautiously optimistic for passage in the spring 2017 legislative session.
  • At the municipal level, multiple cities—including Taipei—have recognized same-sex couples and families through “partnership cards,” a sign of growing acceptance in the island nation.
  • Marriage equality and adoption rights are currently favored by both the ruling and major opposition party along with a growing share of the Taiwanese population, although public opposition by religious and conservative groups remains strong.

Read more:
Taiwan May Be First in Asia to Legalize Same-Sex Marriage” (The New York Times)
Taiwan is on the verge of becoming the first Asian country with marriage equality” (The Washington Post)
10,000 rally at Legislature against gay marriage” (The China Post)

(Image Credit: Ritchie B. Tongo/European Pressphoto Agency, via The New York Times)

Kazakhstan Feature | Kazakh Language

Saving the Kazakh Language, One Film at a Time

Despite its predominantly ethnic Kazakh population, Kazakhstan has struggled to promote widespread use of the Kazakh language within its borders. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstanis have nevertheless demonstrated continued preference for Russian, with 84.4% of the population speaking the language. For film distribution, this has meant that Russian-dubbed foreign films—many coming from Hollywood—have been in considerably higher demand than Kazakh-dubbed ones. The government has sought to promote the integration of the country’s historical language via Kazakh’s status as the official language and laws requiring film distributors to dub or subtitle foreign films in Kazakh. EurasiaNet explores the challenges within the film industry of balancing cultural and political considerations with social demand for what some ethnic Kazakhs worry may become a marginalized language.

Kazakhstan: Movies Going Kazakh, But Distributors and Audiences Resist” (EurasiaNet)

(Image Credit:, via EurasiaNet)

Lebanon Feature | Women

The Enduring Civil Inequality of Lebanese Women

Lebanon’s complex civil status laws have given broad leeway for religious courts to adjudicate civil matters according to theological law, leaving a tangled relationship between church (or mosque) and state in disputes like divorce and child custody. Fatima Ali Hamzeh’s fight to retain custody of her three-year-old son after her husband married another woman while refusing to divorce her has revealed how the intertwined legal systems intersect to create significant disadvantages for women in what is considered to be one of the Middle East’s most progressive states. Global Voices highlights Hamzeh’s story and the women’s rights movement that has rallied around her to combat gender-based legal inequality in Lebanon.

A Mother’s Fight for Her Son Exposes Lebanon’s Institutionalized Sexism” (Global Voices)

Hamzeh custody case draws Berri’s attention” (The Daily Star)

(Image Credit: via The Daily Star)

Bhutan News | Journalists

Bhutanese journalist faces charges of defamation following social media share
  • Namgay Zam, an independent journalist, has been accused of defaming a prominent Bhutanese businessman after sharing a critical post on Facebook.
  • The post targeted a property dispute involving the businessman, and the author, Dr. Shacha Wangmo, was charged with libel and petty misdemeanor.
  • If convicted, Zam faces a fine of up to 2.59 million Bhutanese ngultrum—around $38,500, or 10 times the average salary of a journalist—or up to three years in prison.

Read more:
Bhutan journalist hit by defamation suit for sharing Facebook post” (The Guardian)
Lawsuit Over Facebook Post Raises Fears of Online Censorship in Bhutan” (Global Voices Advox)
In Bhutan, a Facebook Post Leads to Defamation Charges” (The Diplomat)

(Image Credit: via The Guardian)

Turkey News | Girls

Outrage erupts over proposed bill in Turkey to clear adults married to minors of sexual abuse charges
  • The bill, approved after an initial reading and set for a second vote, would allow for the indefinite suspension of sentencing for sex “without force, threat, or any other restriction on consent” if the perpetrator marries the victim.
  • Women’s rights, children’s rights, and other advocates were swift to condemn the proposed bill, which they argue effectively condones statutory rape and child marriage.
  • Child marriage is illegal in Turkey, but non-civil religious marriages proliferate, particularly in the southeast of the country.

Read more:
Turkish ruling party sparks uproar with sexual abuse bill” (Reuters)
Turkish bill to clear men of child sex assault if they marry their victims” (AFP via The Guardian)
Turkey: Thousands protest against proposed child sex law” (BBC)

(Image Credit: Sedat Suna/EPA, via The Guardian)

Indonesia News | Ethnic & Religious Minorities

Pro-diversity mass demonstration takes place in Jakarta
  • Known as the Bhineka Tunggal Ika (“Unity in Diversity”) Parade, the event brought hundreds of pro-diversity demonstrators out dressed in red and white (the national colors) and traditional dress to support ethnic and religious unity in the country.
  • The peaceful event was a response to growing concerns about the influence of fundamentalist Islamic leaders in the Muslim-majority country.
  • Recently, hundreds of thousands protested in a call for Jakarta’s governor, an ethnic Chinese Christian, to be charged with blasphemy, and an attack on a church in Samarinda left three children injured and one dead.

Read more:
Hundreds join Bhineka Tunggal Ika Parade” (The Jakarta Post)
Thousands of Indonesians rally against racial, religious intolerance” (Reuters)
Indonesia Says Jakarta’s Christian Governor Is Suspected of Blasphemy” (The New York Times)

(Image Credit: Wienda Parwitasari/The Jakarta Post)