“With efforts from Indonesian activists, including young people, and support from regional and global partners, every year, on the anniversary of his death, we re-ignite calls […] to reopen the case and pursue the investigation,” Hellema said during her remarks at “Youth at the Heart of 2030 Agenda: The Case for Space” in Bangkok.
Hellema also cited the case of Maria Chin Abdullah, leader of the Malaysian pro-democracy alliance Bersih, who was detained in November 2016 for organising a mass rally calling on the Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak to resign over a corruption scandal; as well as the case of Sombath Somphone, civil society leader from Lao PDR, who disappeared in December 2012.
Abdullah was released after eleven days. Social media helped to mobilise people not just from Malaysia but also from all over the region to offer support in calling on the country’s government to release her.
New technology has given young people new platforms to gain global attention and demand accountability from their governments.
“Being new to the scene, being a young person, it can be sometimes hard to find your way,” Hellema said. “Online spaces have provided the opportunity for a new generation of human rights defenders”.
She added that “netizens” sometimes see online space through rose-tinted glasses, breaking physical boundaries and offering unlimited resources for users. But that is not always the case.
“We’ve also seen many challenges. What we say and what we post online has real consequences,” Hellema said. “There is unfortunately an accelerating trend in Asia of people getting harassed, arrested, or even killed for what they post online.”
“As an example, we’ve seen very unfortunate bloggers, one of them the Bangladeshi Nazimuddin Samad, who has been killed in April this year because of what he posted online,” said Hellema.
So how can internet users, especially young people, protect themselves from online threats?
The first step is to always remember that what goes online stays online. “You can delete whatever you want, [but] if you posted a picture of yourself at a party at night when you were sixteen, that picture might come back to haunt you when you’re 25,” she said. “That’s the reality. No real thing is deleted”
Similarly, there’s also an issue regarding surveillance. Hellema mentioned “the Facebook Generation” — young people who are often very open online and post publicly where they are and what they are doing.
“It’s very easy to track where you are. Anyone with some skills can easily find out your private chats, emails, and passwords,” she said.
“As we move our lives online, it’s a good reminder to note that online tools and opportunities are great and we should use it to our full advantage, but we need to use it very carefully.”
(Copyright: UNESCO/Abdul Qowi Bastian — this content was first published as part of the Youth Newsroom of the Regional Roundtable “Youth at the Heart of the Agenda 2030: The Case for Space” here:http://www.case4space.org/newsroom)