Activist Charged for Inciting ‘Twitter Revolution’ (Updated)
A Moldovan activist faces criminal charges for organizing demonstrations that were enabled by social networking tools like Twitter and Facebook, the Russian press reports.
In an interview with Russian news agency ITAR-TASS, Moldovan Prosecutor General Valeriu Gurbulea said Natalia Morar, one of the organizers of an anti-Communist flash mob, has been officially charged with "calls for organizing and staging mass disturbances." (Morar has not been put in jail, however — despite some reports to the contrary.)
Prosecutors, Gurbulea added, were contemplating charges against another 200 people he described as being involved in an attempt to overthrow the government in Moldova’s so-called "Twitter Revolution."
"We’ll charge them not only with the attempt to stage a government overthrow, and incitement to mass disturbances and participation in them, but also with the theft of tangible assets," he said.
Earlier this week, activists used text messages and online social networking tools to organize what they described a peaceful protest in Chisinau, the capital of the tiny, landlocked former Soviet republic. Demonstrators sent a stream of Twitter updates, blog posts, video, and pictures. Things, however, turned violent, and some protesters stormed and trashed government buildings.
On her LiveJournal blog, Morar distanced herself from the riots. In an interview with The New York Times, Morar said she expected to face charges; she added that organizers had received threatening phone calls.
Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin, meanwhile, is accusing neighboring Romania of plotting a coup. Voronin ordered the expulsion of Romania’s ambassador, and Moldova has moved to expel Romanian journalists as well.
Twitter, YouTube and other social media continue to be an important tool for following this crisis. Posting from Chisinau, Twitter user 1arsz notes that opposition organizers are sending out the call to gather for a rally tomorrow on the capital’s main square.
Associated Press reporter Corneliu Rusnac notes that social networking tools have been essential for maneuvering around a government information blockade. "Television stations around the world on Tuesday aired images of the violent protest, with the parliament and Voronin’s offices on fire," he writes. "But in Moldova, where press freedoms are weak, state television chose to broadcast a soap opera and another station showed images of dance routines."
UPDATE: Morar’s LiveJournal page went much of the day without updates; reports circulated that she had been locked up, following the charges filed against her. At 7:13 p.m., she posted this update: "Reports of my detention are not true. I’m O.K."
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Monday, January 31, 2011
Activist Charged for Inciting ‘Twitter Revolution’ (Updated) | Danger Room | Wired.com