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Maltese Metal Heads Align The Tide unleash blistering new track with video, announce new album


Maltese Metal Heads – ‘ALIGN THE TIDE’ unleash their second track with video - "Unbreakable" from their highly anticipated upcoming album - "Hollow". The album will be released on August 26th, 2022 via Cleopatra Records. "Unbreakable" is now available on all major streaming services and the video can be found on the Cleopatra Records YouTube channel here. The track is more like an anthem of empowerment, touching on subjects such as inner strength, the tenacity to endure whatever life throws at him/her. To keep fighting no matter what!

Unbreakable recently premiered via Decibel Magazine and the feature can be found here.

‘HOLLOW’ the much anticipated follow up album from the 2019 ‘Dead Religion’ album by the Maltese Metal Heads – ‘ALIGN THE TIDE’

After the releasing of the first single and video ‘Judgment’ from the upcoming album ‘Hollow’ – ‘Align The Tide’ unleash the second single and video – ‘Unbreakable’ via Cleopatra Records.

Band Statement:

“Hollow” is a perfect transition into our new style as Align the Tide, still keeping the main elements but with a refined sound. Expect heaviness, catchy choruses and in your face riffs that will make you dance. We decided to go with a topic such as ‘Mental Health’, in which most people go through on a daily basis. Each song has its own story that most people will relate to as some tracks are based on real life experiences as well as having concepts and stories.

Pre-orders for both "Unbreakable" and "Hollow" are available below:



In case it was missed, check out ALIGN THE TIDE’s first video from the ‘HOLLOW’ album ‘Judgment’:

Formed in September 2015, the band experimented with several different music sounds while working alongside different local musicians, extracting influences and styles.

The founders of the band, have been exploring music genres for the past nine years before settling in the active sound you hear today in Align The Tide! Together, they composed music based on thrash, groove & melodic metal resulting in the recording of their debut album ‘Dead Religion’ & videos for ‘The Golden Throne’ & ‘Welcome to Hell’ from the same record. Merchandise has been designed & produced to accompany the above release.

In March 2018, the band supported the legendary band ‘Mushroomhead’ on their American tour visiting several main cities such as: Mesa, San Diego, Portland, Seattle, Jerome, Fort Collins, Denver, Colorado Springs, Lincoln, Waterloo, Minneapolis, Joliet, Madison, Racine, Cleveland.

Upon returning home the band participated in several local gigs & festivals where they have rooted their main fan base before embarking on a mini European tour visiting Germany and the Czech Republic.

Align The Tide are signed to the major Independent record label based in the US – Cleopatra Records. They have released ‘Dead Religion’ as their first opus with their second album ‘Hollow’ due to be released in August 2022.

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Psych Doom act Cavern Deep releases "Skeletal Wastes" track/video


Before it, an ancient war ground. It is vast and dreadful to behold.
The last big battle of a dying civilization. The last gasping breath.
The being makes its way through labyrinths of giant dead abominations and remnants of war machines since long put to sleep. Picking up pace. Slowly burning from inside with an ever-growing sense of meaning. It is the final solution. The retaliation of many. The faint glow in its veins extends to a cord.
The hovering placenta is feeding it in a steady rhythm, preparing the being for its passing.

The video recently premiered via Decibel Magazine and the feature csn be found here:

The concept album "Part II - Breach" is out the 14th of July.

Vinyl Pre-order:

CD Digipack Pre-order:

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Canadian Death/thrash Act DECORPSETATED releases drum playthrough video​


Decorpsetated unleashes a drum playthrough video for the title track "Human Words" from their recently released debut album. The drums were performed by Blake Ryan Chadwick and the video can be found here:

The Human Words album released on March 31st on all major platforms and can be found here:

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Wisconsin’s newest metalcore outfit Vacant Voice release guitar play-through video for "Transience" track


Vacant Voice have released a guitar play-through for their newest single, “Transience”, taken from their upcoming album “Cathartic Beauty.” The record will be the groups debut effort, and features 8 tracks that all bleed individual colors, making up a dynamic first release for the Wisconsin-based quintet.
Check out the play-through here:

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Tik Tok: @VacantVoiceWI

Psychedelic doom band Owls & Eagles Release Debut Album; Stream In Its Entirety


Owls & Eagles, a two piece psychedelic doom band from Calgary Alberta releases their debut album Patience Vol. 11and stream in ita entirety via Doomed & Stoned.
The album released on June 1st through Moments Records.

This upcoming album is a concept album, its taken us 2.5 years to get it out.

Produced and engineered by Jamie K at Prohibitor Studios Calgary.

Artwork by Broken Wing Visual Media

Our story starts with Patience realizing her home has become poisoned by hate, greed, and corruption. She makes a choice; she chooses to leave this place she has called home since birth. For once in her life, she sees everyone for who they really are, liars, cheaters, destroyers, killers of the land, pure evil at its fullest. She leaves and never turns back.

Check out the feature: here:

The album can be purchased through all major platforms as well as the bands Bandcamp page.
Owls & Eagles are:
Mark Russell - vocals/drums
Ross ferguson - guitar/vocals

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East Coast Canadian death/Thrash act DECORPSETATED release debut album "Human Words"


East Coast Canadian death/Thrash act DECORPSETATED release debut album "Human Words"

(of a sentient being) to have had one’s corpse
violently and abruptly removed from their soul.
“this decorpsetated soul may never find its way
without a vessel”


Track by track, Human Words peals back the layers of human selfishness. With teeth gnashed and claws drawn,
this vicious account of raw humanity will leave you questioning how we still exist, as well as whether we should… oh, and it rips pretty hard, if you’re into that sort of thing.

From the artist:
“As musicians we often end up with seemingly endless folders of unreleased music for one reason or another. You always tell yourself you’ll put together an album but you never do. So I started chipping away at a collection of my favourites with absolutely no vision of how it would turn out. 3 years later I’m sitting back in my studio listening to songs I thought were about greed, war, and extinction, only to be slammed with the reality that these were in fact metaphorical manifestations of my own emotional bullshit. In that moment I knew these stories had to be shared. What if someone else is facing similar struggles and trying to interpret them through a similar lens?”

All drum composition, performance, and pre-production by Blake Ryan Chadwick (aka theultim8apocalypse on socials), as well as Post FX for Taser Napkin

All songs, lyrics, and performances otherwise by Marc Schultz

All final production, mixing, and mastering by Marc Schultz @ ChaoticidalCreations

All album art and logos by Ulises Serrano @ sinonskintattoo

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Umbilicus (Cannibal Corpse/Deicide members) release video for new single “Gates Of Neptune”


New rock band UMBILICUS has released their third single, “Gates Of Neptune”, from their upcoming debut album “Path Of 1000 Suns”, with an accompanying video. Fresh onto the scene, the quartet have put their death metal chops aside, and embraced their collective love of 60s and 70s hard rock.

On “Gates Of Neptune”, Nordberg said: “Gates is definitely one of my favorite songs on the album. It’s a pretty simple song, but it says so much and is so incredibly dynamic. It really takes you on a journey. Brian’s vocals are also absolutely beautiful on this track, and really made it go from a neat song to an epic one! Though we made the band to make some classic hard rock, one of the things that made all those old bands so good was because they were able to be dynamic and have a “ballad” track on an album. “Dream On” I rest my case! We hope you all enjoy this song.

“Path Of 1000 Suns” can be pre-ordered at

“Path Of 1000 Suns” will be out September 30th on Listenable Insanity Records, and was mixed and mastered at Smoke & Mirrors Productions by Taylor Nordberg. The “Gates Of Neptune” music video was edited by Daniel Wahlström at Heavy Groove Media


Path Of 1000 Suns track-listing:
1. Hello Future
2. Umbilicus
3. Gates Of Neptune
4. I, Human
5. Stump Sponge
6. My Own Tide
7. Life On The Sun
8. The Call
9. Traveler
10. Gathering At The Kuiper Belt

The group is comprised of drummer Paul Mazurkiewicz (CANNIBAL CORPSE), guitarist Taylor Nordberg (DEICIDE, INHUMAN CONDITION, THE ABSENCE), bassist Vernon Blake (ANARCHUS, NAPALM DEATH - live), and vocalist and lyricist Brian Stephenson (FORE). The instrumentalists grouped together in the summer of 2020, crafting the music for what became "Path Of 1000 Suns" throughout the remainder of the year, then tapping vocalist Stephenson the following year to complete the lineup.

The band's debut album "Path Of 1000 Suns" is set to be released on September 30h, 2022 on Listenable Insanity Records and can be pre-ordered at
Details regarding international releases will be announced soon.

"Path Of 1000 Suns" was recorded, mixed, and mastered by Taylor Nordberg at Smoke & Mirrors Productions. The artwork for the album was also done by Taylor Nordberg.

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Icelandic metal act SORG release new album 'Nordandrekar'


Sorg is the brainchild of the Painter, Musician, and philosopher Myrmann. The influence for SORG combines both, a variety of disparate rock and metal genres, and also Myrmanns interest in history, romanticism, Icelandic Folklores, Alchemy, and philosophy. Sorg is a tool for using his voice for to 2 create awareness about spreading love and kill judgement and prejudise in modern Society.

Mýrmann comes from Iceland, small mystical and gloomy Island in the North. His work is heavily influenced by Icelandic Heritage, cultural traditions, the three major elements of the Icelandic nation: The landscape, The rich literature and the old sagas.

“Sorg is not about doing the most and best produced albums, It is about using a voice for something honest and real” - says Mýrmann.

About 'Nordandrekar':

The new album is a 11 song concept album. The story is about dragon riders from the North, they go to a war with an evil tyrant from abroad. They fight the evil with pure hearts and courage! Somehow teaching us the art of war as it should be.

The idea behind the story is that Mýrmann believes that good will always win and believes in a world were everybody can get along and love each other, no matter backgrounds, color, status, gender or believes. He doesn’t believe in hiearchy. “Honestly I think hiearchy and class division is the root of most evil in modern Society.”

Musician on the album: - Mýrmann. All guitars, Bass, Keys, piano, vocals and lyrics - Freyr. Vocals - The drums are programmed drums from the producer and musician Arnaud K


In Turkey, 30 people face investigation over social media posts that ‘insulted the president’


Turkish social media users have taken their concerns about President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's health to Twitter. But when the hashtag #ölmüş, a Turkish word for “is said to be dead” started trending on November 3, it only took a few hours for the General Directorate of Security to take action against at least 30 people for speculating about the president's health. In addition, the president's lawyer Hüseyin Aydın filed a criminal complaint against Twitter users for using the hashtags #RecepTayyipErdoğan and #ölmüş, alleging that they insulted the president. “It has become necessary to detect the users who made the posts and to demand a public action by conducting an investigation against the perpetrators,” said Aydın according to reporting by the online news platform Diken.

According to Article 299 of the Turkish Penal Code, it is illegal to insult the president. The accused can face up to four years behind bars. Since being elected in 2014, Freedom House reports that some “100,000 people have been accused of defaming the president” and breaking Article 299 of the Penal Code, a provision rarely used before, according to a 2018 report by Human Rights Watch. Students, artists, journalists, lawyers, and average citizens have been prosecuted or faced trial. According to the Ministry of Justice, General Directorate of Criminal Records and Statistics, 36,000 people were investigated for allegedly insulting the president in 2019 and 31,297 in 2020. In comparison, only four people were investigated under the article in 2010.

Last month, Europe's top human rights court, the European Court of Human Rights, ruled that the criminal proceedings instituted under Article 299 are in violation of Article 10 on freedom of expression of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Speculations over President Erdoğan's health have increased recently due to his frequent absences from the public eye. On November 3, the president did not attend the ceremony to mark his Justice and Development Party's 19th year in power. On November 1, he canceled his visit to Glasgow for COP26, the international climate change conference, which has drawn world leaders from nearly every nation on earth reportedly over a disagreement about security protocols. President Erdoğan was scheduled to deliver an address on Monday and Tuesday, laying out Turkey's “plans to meet emission reduction goals it has agreed to under the Paris climate agreement.” Instead, the Turkish Minister of Environment, Urbanisation, and Climate Change Murat Kurum represented the nation.

In response to tweets and speculations over the president's health, his aides shared videos such as the one below, showing the president out and about.

According to Bianet, “while the hashtag made no reference as to who was ‘dead,’ almost all messages were implicitly or explicitly about the President.” In July, a video where the president appeared to fall asleep during a video address to the ruling AKP party members vent viral.

In its October judgment, the European Court of Human Rights said, “that affording increased protection by means of a special law on insult would not, as a rule, be in keeping with the spirit of the Convention, and that a State's interest in protecting the reputation of its head of State could not serve as justification for affording the head of State privileged status or special protection vis-à-vis the right to convey information and opinions concerning him.” As a result, the Court recommended that Turkey changes its laws and provisions to align with Article 10 of the Convention.

The likelihood of Turkey complying with the recommendation is slim. Days after the European Court's decision, Turkish lawyer Sedat Ata was handed 11 months and 20 days in prison for “insulting” the president based on a video Ata shared on social media in 2014. The European Commission also raised concerns in a country report that Turkey's judiciary mechanisms did not match international and European standards.

In 2014, Emma Woollacott wrote a piece for Forbes about how then-Prime Minister Erdoğan ordering a Twitter block was a prime example of the Streisand Effect. At the time, the decision to block Twitter was triggered by a series of audio recordings of Erdoğan instructing his son Bilal how to hide large sums of cash. Woolacott argued that the decision to block Twitter “only brought more attention to the corruption allegations,” namely the Streisand Effect. Fast forward to 2021, it looks as though President Erdoğan learned little from that experience.

Barbados prime minister Mia Mottley's defence of Small Island Developing States at COP26 makes her a regional rock star


Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Mottley's representation of and advocacy for the Caribbean region at the 2020 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, has captured the attention of world leaders and regional netizens alike.

Mottley's environmental star has been on the rise ever since her address at the United Nations’ Climate Event Summit on September 23, 2019, when she warned of mass migration if the climate crisis was not solved. Similarly, her speech at the opening of the #COP26 World Leaders Summit on November 1 made no attempt to sugar-coat the grim reality that Small Island Developing States (SIDS) like the Caribbean which are on the frontline of the adverse effects of climate change despite contributing the least to global greenhouse gas emissions are facing.

She called the failure to provide critical climate finance, which dropped by as much as 25 percent in 2019, “immoral” and “unjust”:

The pandemic has taught us that national solutions to global problems do not work. We come to Glasgow with global ambition to save our people and to save our planet. But we now find three gaps. On mitigation, climate pledges, or NDCs without more, we will leave the world on a pathway to 2.7 degrees, and with more, we are still likely to get to 2 degrees.

Calling out China and Russia, two major contributors to greenhouse gases that were noticeably absent from the conference, Mottley continued:

Do some leaders in this world believe that they can survive and thrive on their own? Have they not learned from the pandemic? Can there be peace and prosperity if one-third of the world literally prospers and the other two-thirds of the world live under siege and face calamitous threats to our wellbeing? 

The central banks of the wealthiest countries engaged in $25 trillion of quantitative easing in the last 13 years. […] Of that, $9 trillion was in the last 18 months to fight the pandemic. Had we used that $25 trillion to purchase bonds to finance the energy transition or the transition of how we eat or how we move in transport, we would now today be reaching that 1.5 degrees limit that is so vital to us.  An annual increase in the SDRs of $500 billion a year for 20 years, put in a trust to finance the transition, is the real gap […] that we need to close, not the $50 billion being proposed for adaptation. And if $500 billion sounds big to you, guess what? It is just 2 percent of the $25 trillion.

The Barbadian prime minister later told CNN's Christiane Amanpour that countries like hers, which contribute less than a percentage point to global emissions, have been facing the impacts of the climate crisis for some time now: water supply problems, coral reef degradation, saltwater intrusion, and the influx of sargassum, not to mention flooding and hurricanes.

Those who need to make the decisions, she said, “are kicking can down the road and they believe that they can because they're not seeing as they see themselves”:

They don't reach that period of peril probably for another 15, 20 years […] four degrees to Shanghai and Miami to be eradicated. Well, it's 1.5 and 2 for us. 

They're waiting for it to hit them and we really are hoping that they'll recognize that no one is safe until everyone is safe and if the episode with vaccines hasn't shown us that, then we will never learn.

Her stance went over exceptionally well, with many regional netizens applauding her gumption and determination. Her example inspired some to wonder what it would be like if women ruled the world.



he Contemporary Space Athens is an exhibition space established in Greece by the Chicago Athenaeum, Museum for Architecture and Design in collaboration with the European Centre for Architecture, Art, Design and Urban Studies.


Primarily, the space hosts exhibitions on the awarded products presented in the Good Design, International Architecture, American Architecture, Green Good Design and 40under40 programs curated and organized by the Chicago Athenaeum and the European Centre.


Contemporary space also gives room to the artistic community worldwide, presenting emerging artists while being an active observer of the new age of art and design. Its annual activity includes the organization of cultural seminars and workshops. It is committed to raise awareness on the artwork of major renowned artists, trends and new media and to set out firm collaborations with other cultural organizations and institutions that promote fine art.

Set in an area of 270 sqm, holding an exhibition space on the ground floor (170sqm) and on the loft (100 sq.m), the Contemporary Space is located on 74 Mitropoleos Str. in the historical center of Athens, right beneath the Acropolis.

74 Mitropoleos str, Plaka - 10563,

Athens, Greece


Tel: +30 210 3428511

Fax: +30 210 3428512



How to get there with Metro

Monastiraki Station

Blue Line



For all your applications or questions please contact with:

Saudi women's activist Loujain al-Hathloul released and tweeting


Loujain al-Hathloul, the prominent Saudi activist and campaigner who had been detained since 2018 for demanding an end to the male guardianship system and to the ban on women's driving, was released last week and posted her first tweet since on Wednesday.

Loujain, who was abducted from the United Arab Emirates in May 2018, tortured, denied access to family, and kept in solitary confinement for periods of her incarceration, was sentenced to nearly six years in prison on December 28, 2020, by the kingdom’s notorious terrorism court. The six-year term, nearly half of which was suspended by the verdict, is down from the maximum jail term of up to 20 years which the public prosecutor demanded on December 17.

Local press citing the court's ruling said that the 31-year-old Loujain was found guilty of “committing acts criminalized under Article 43 of the Law on Combating Terrorism Crimes“, including engaging with foreign, hostile entities, and using the internet to serve and support an external agenda inside the kingdom, with the aim of harming public order.

Based on the ruling, Loujain's family predicted her release in March, as she had served the majority of her sentence in pre-trial detention.

Her release on February 10 was a development welcomed by politicians and sympathizers worldwide, with her family noting that Loujain remains restrained by a travel ban and limits on public appearances.

The celebrated release of Loujain is one of several positive legal developments concerning activists and political prisoners in Saudi Arabia, with some being released and others having their sentences commuted.

This shift is attributed to the changes in the White House. The departure of Donald Trump's administration, which overlooked human rights violations in the region, encouraging authoritarian regimes, and its replacement with an administration perceived to be keen on pressing allies to respect human rights, could have accelerated overdue trials and reduce sentences.

The prominent activist's release also encouraged calls for the freeing of other detained prisoners of conscience who are still languishing in Saudi prisons.

Capturing the mood on both sides of the Ukraine-Russia conflict in Donbas


On Valentine’s Day 2021, three Ukrainian soldiers died from an exploding landmine in the Donbas, the region of eastern Ukraine split by fighting between the Ukrainian government and Russian-backed rebel forces. The youngest was born in 1994, three years after Ukraine became an independent state following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The year he was born, Ukraine agreed to get rid of all the nuclear weapons on its soil. When he was three, Russia and Ukraine signed a Friendship Treaty, affirming respect for each other’s territorial integrity. Indeed, he grew up in a state whose territory was not plagued by armed disputes over unresolved legacies from Soviet and pre-Soviet times. Moldova and Georgia were not so lucky. Ukraine was a relative success story.

This changed in early 2014 when protesters forced the resignation and flight of President Viktor Yanukovych, a former Donbas political boss and pro-Russian politician. The Kremlin saw the so-called Euromaidan protests—what participants in Ukraine called a “Revolution of Dignity”—as a cynical western plot against its influence in Ukraine. Russia's leadership responded by fomenting revolts in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, and then intervening militarily to annex Crimea to Russia and support two breakaway territories in the Donbas, the self-proclaimed People's Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk (DNR/LNR).

Negotiators from Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France eventually hammered out a series of protocols in Minsk designed to end the fighting, delimit a frontline between combatants, and transition the breakaway regions back to eventual Ukrainian government control. That was six years ago. The fighting has stabilized along a line of control but none of the Minsk II protocols have been implemented. However, stabilization is a relative term. Soldiers continue to die from sporadic incidents along what is now one of the most heavily mined military front lines in the world.

To gauge opinions on both sides of the line of control, we conducted simultaneous computer-assisted telephone interviews (CATI) in September and October 2020. These surveys with similar texts were fielded by two highly reputable companies: the Levada Center Moscow for the self-proclaimed DNR/LNR and the Kyiv Institute of Sociology (KIIS) in the government-controlled Donbas. While conditions in the DNR/LNR prohibit safe and reliable face-to-face survey research at this time, we contend that it remains important to try to capture the views of those directly affected by the war.

Every aspect of daily life in and near a war zone is affected by the war. According to a 2020 Crisis Group report, war has “plunged an economically troubled region into ruin (…) On both sides of the front line, residents have settled into a new normal that drifts between dreary and dire.” Still, the daily routines endure despite the shadow of war. It is in everyday life—people’s ability to put food on the table, to hold a steady job, to see their children grow up safely, to obtain pensions—that trust in a state and its institutions is built or lost. These comparative trust levels on both sides of the line of contact might well decide the future of this divided region.

In this article, our results compare the trust in the national government in the Kyiv-controlled Donbas, on the one hand, and trust in the local authorities in the self-proclaimed DNR/LNR, on the other. In the government-controlled parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, some local authorities have not been able to carry out their civic responsibilities, while others have been replaced with a temporary civil-military administration. Local elections in Donbas have been severely curtailed since the start of the conflict, with the latest round in October 2020 cancelled in many areas along the frontline, disenfranchising over 450,000 citizens. The survey results confirm how distant the Kyiv government appears to the residents in this part of the Donbas. As seen in the first graphic (Figure 1), fewer than 10 per cent of the respondents trust the national government to take care of their needs as citizens, while about 45 per cent recorded their distrust.

In the DNR/LNR, trust appears to be higher with 26 per cent of the respondents expressing trust in the local authorities (18 per cent distrust). But with nearly half neither trusting nor distrusting the local authorities, political support for the self-proclaimed DNR/LNR authorities appears lukewarm. Indeed, the results suggest that the local population, just like residents in the Kyiv-controlled Donbas, know that they have to manage their lives as best they can without holding out much hope for help from the authorities.

Trust in the very institutions that should be responsive to citizen needs is low in the Donbas as a whole. But the relative gap in trust between the two parts of the Donbas is indicative of how residents in government-controlled regions believe Kyiv has left them behind. The Ukrainian state has significant work to do in those areas of the Donbas it governs.

Another stark indication of this gap across the line of contact are the answers to the question: “Do you think the region [country] is heading in the right or wrong direction?” (Figure 2). A majority of respondents (59 per cent) in the government-controlled Donbas think that things are heading in the wrong direction. In contrast, in the DNR/LNR, a plurality of respondents (44 per cent) think that things are heading in the right direction (23 per cent in the wrong direction), though about a third remain uncertain.

One of the characteristics of the Donbas conflict, in contrast to the conflicts in Moldova and Georgia, is that it erupted more than two decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union. While there was some tension over the fate of the Donbas after Ukrainian independence, it was not a burning issue for most residents. In fact, self-determination for the region was a cause that motivated only a minority. The ouster of the pro-Russian Yanukovych government in Kyiv in early 2014 nurtured and fed that sentiment. It is worth probing just how strongly people feel loyalty to the state and flag (DNR/LNR or Ukrainian) under which they currently live.

In our survey, we asked a question designed to measure what academics term a pure “public goods” vision of the state. It asks respondents to agree or disagree with the following statement: “It does not matter what country I live in; all I want is a good job and a good pension.”

This graph (Figure 3) might surprise readers, showing that majorities on both sides of the line of contact agree with the statement. Economic and material security thus trumps separatism and nationalism. Importantly, the numbers who disagree (just over one-third of the population) are also nearly identical on both sides of the Donbas dividing line. While this is a minority sentiment among ordinary people, those affirming the greater importance of “country” express the dominant and often the only acceptable view of those in positions of power. Whose flag flies where is the overriding concern.

Examination of the answers to these three questions by age and nationality reveals an important asymmetry. In the government-controlled area, older people and self-identified Russians are less trusting of the authorities and agree more strongly with the statement about material needs being more important than the flag under which they live. In the self-proclaimed DNR/LNR, it is younger people and self-identified Ukrainians who express these sentiments more strongly.

The degree of trust in local authorities on both sides of the territorial divide in the Donbas is a crucial factor shaping the future of the region. In certain fundamental ways, the aspirations of the majority of people on both sides are the same. However, this conflict was never about the Donbas alone: it is also about broader geopolitical struggles. As long as these endure, the conflict in the Donbas is likely to persist and lines on the ground and in residents’ minds are likely to become more entrenched.


In Tanzania, full-throttle COVID-19 denial leaves citizens without access to public health information


The novel coronavirus was first reported in Tanzania in mid-March 2020, but, after recording up to 509 cases and 21 deaths in late April, the nation announced its status as “coronavirus-free” in June.

That same month, Kassim Majaliwa, the country’s prime minister, told parliament there are only 66 active coronavirus cases in the country, but did not provide further details.

Since then, government has been silent on the coronavirus with a strong politic of denial and no data released to the public on infections or deaths.

Today, most activities continue business-as-usual, including Tanzania's tourism industry, attracting thousands of visitors to its airports with few public health protocols in place.

The airport in Zanzibar received the lowest 2-star rating on COVID-19 health and safety measures by Skytrax COVID-19 Airport Safety Rating, the world’s only assessment and certification of airport health and safety measures during the pandemic. According to their report, “new cases of the South African virus variant were confirmed in two travelers flying into Denmark on January 19, from Tanzania.”

The highly anticipated annual African music festival, Sauti za Busara, will take place in mid-February in Zanzibar, with support from the European Union in Tanzania and several European embassies, despite the risk of highly contagious new coronavirus variants circulating in the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Brazil.

On January 24, the Catholic Archdiocese of Arusha issued a letter warning congregants of the existence of COVID-19 in Tanzania, and urged members to follow all necessary public health measures to prevent the spread of the virus in churches.

While Tanzania’s recorded cases are moderate compared to other countries, the government’s silence about COVID-19 data raised grave concerns among public health experts and human rights activists, who are forbidden from speaking or talking about COVID-19 in digital spaces.

The country updated its 2018 Electronic and Postal Communications (Online Content) Regulations in July, prohibiting any “content with information with regard to the outbreak of a deadly or contagious disease in the country or elsewhere without the approval of the respective authorities.”

Despite initial restrictions to contain the spread of the virus, schools, colleges, offices and other social activities are back to normal, even as the virus continues to spread in the region.

President John Magufuli had cast doubt on the credibility of laboratory equipment and technicians after secret tests allegedly performed on papaya and a goat gave positive test results. The president said releasing this data was causing unnecessary panic and soon after, fired Nyambura Moremi, director of the national health laboratory, for allegedly botching the testing results. The ministerial COVID-19 information team was dissolved.

In June, Magufuli thanked God for eradicating the virus from Tanzania, following three days of national prayer. He made this announcement publicly during a Sunday service, amidst a praising congregation, making claims that God had answered their prayers. He also praised congregants for not wearing face masks, despite calls from the World Health Organization to wear masks to prevent the spread of the virus.

Magufuli, nicknamed “the bulldozer” for his tough anti-corruption stance, was reelected for a second time in October 2020 during an election that was highly criticized for stifling dissent and opposition.

Just before the elections, Tanzanians experienced an internet shutdown with access denied to all the major social media platforms including Instagram, WhatsApp and Twitter. To date, many Tanzanians cannot access Twitter without using a Virtual Private Network (VPN).

Over the last five years, the Magufuli administration has narrowed democratic and civic spaces and has cracked down hard on freedom of expression and access to information in digital spaces.

With the government’s strong denial stance, Tanzanians are not allowed to release any COVID-19 data that the government has not verified, which means that ordinary citizens as well as journalists and medical professionals are barred from commenting on COVID-19 in digital spaces, or accessing information.

Access to COVID-19 information has become an “elite privilege,” according to one doctor from the national hospital who spoke to Global Voices on the condition of anonymity, fearing reprisal.

Unlike other countries with established COVID-19 information response teams who give daily updates on COVID-19, Tanzania simply offers a website with limited and outdated COVID-19 information.

The denial has been so convincing that it’s now widely accepted by Tanzanians, including medical experts, who disregard basic safety measures like wearing face masks and social distancing.

Global Voices visited major hospitals such Muhimbili, the government referral hospital in Dar es Salaam, the cultural capital, as well as Benjamin Mkapa Hospital in Dodoma, the political capital, and witnessed very few measures taken to stop the spread of the coronavirus disease.

People are allowed to enter hospital premises without wearing masks, there are few working hygiene and washing facilities and those that do exist lack water or are broken, which was witnessed, for example, in the pregnant mothers’ clinic at Muhimbili.

While the Magufuli administration has shown little concern about the impact of the virus on everyday citizens, many government ministries and departments acknowledge that COVID-19 still exists.

For example, when Magufuli was sworn in for the second time last year, authorities did practice COVID-19 prevention measures, requiring all attendees to have their temperatures taken and wash their hands at hygiene stations with hand sanitizer provided.

On January 25, Tanzania's Minister of Finance Dr. Philip Mpango urged his staff to take precautions against COVID-19 while at the same denying its existence in Tanzania, during a meeting in Dodoma, the capital.

Most in-country experts are afraid to speak up, fearing retaliation.

Global Voices spoke with one medical expert who believed Tanzania may be experiencing a second wave of the outbreak but that this information was kept secret from the public. The expert did not want to be named, fearing reprisal.

Another medical expert told Global Voices under the conditions of anonymity that people must know their COVID-19 status so that they can take measures to prevent its spread in their communities. He said that leaving people uninformed makes their job very difficult and hopes that all Tanzanians will try to protect themselves by taking all precautions advised by WHO. He told Global Voices:

Politicians have taken over the whole COVID[-19] issue and they are playing a dangerous game, but when people will start dying they will start sacking medical staff.

Another doctor who spoke to Global Voices anonymously said that although there is some hope in getting a vaccine, Tanzania’s denial may slow down access to it, as the government has not taken any steps to acquire it on the global market, opting instead to invest in herbal remedies.

In December 2020, Minister of Health of Health spokesman Gerald Chamii cast doubt on global vaccines, telling the East African:

It takes not less than six months to find a vaccine or cure for a certain disease. We have fared on our own since the pandemic spread, I am not sure if it is wise to have a vaccine imported and distributed to the citizens without undertaking clinical testing to approve if it is safe for our people.

Access to information is essential to democracy and development. Tanzania’s cyber laws have been abused to target dissenting voices and those who have spoken out against Tanzania’s handling of COVID-19.

Freedom of expression, including the right to access, receive and impart information, is enshrined in international law. In Tanzania, the right to be informed, and to access and disseminate information, is recognized in Articles 18(1) and 18(2) of the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania.

Nevertheless, these rights are more cosmetic than based in reality.

With full-throttled COVID-19 denial and laws in place to prevent the open exchange of information and opinions on the disease on- and offline, Tanzanians are left with severely limited access to information and many are afraid to speak out.

West tells Russia to free Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, Moscow pushes back


MOSCOW : Western nations told Russia to immediately free detained Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny on Monday, a day after he was detained at a Moscow airport after flying home for the first time since he was poisoned last summer.

Russia quickly rejected calls to release him, telling the West to mind its own business as police continued to hold Navalny in a Moscow police station.

“Respect international law, do not encroach on national legislation of sovereign states and address problems in your own country,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wrote on Facebook.

Navalny’s case could trigger new sanctions against Russia, especially against an $11.6 billion project to build a natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany, with some EU countries saying they want the bloc to swiftly impose such measures.

Four masked police officers detained the opposition politician at passport control on Sunday evening, the first time he had returned home after being poisoned by what German military tests showed was a Novichok nerve agent, a version of events the Kremlin rejects.

Russia’s prison service said he had been taken into custody due to alleged violations of a suspended prison sentence that Navalny, 44, says was trumped up.

It said he would be held in custody until a court hearing expected on Jan. 29 that will rule whether to convert that suspended sentence into a real 3.5 jail term.

The foreign ministers of Germany, Britain, France and Italy called for Navalny’s release. Lithuania said on Sunday it would ask the EU to swiftly impose new sanctions on Russia. Czech Foreign Minister Tomas Petricek said he wanted the bloc to discuss possible sanctions.

Jake Sullivan, one of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s top aides, told Moscow to free Navalny, and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Twitter he was deeply troubled by Moscow’s decision to arrest Navalny.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov dismissed Western consternation over the Navalny case, casting it as an attempt to distract from the West’s own problems.

“You can feel the joy with which these comments (On Navalny’s arrest) are coming out,” said Lavrov.

“Judging by everything, it allows Western politicians to think that by doing this they can divert attention away from the deep crisis that the liberal model of development finds itself in,” he said.


COVID-19 and shrinking freedom limits in Jordan


In Jordan, measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 came hand-in-hand with increased intimidation of journalists and restrictions on citizens’ rights to speech.

In mid-March 2020, Jordan's government enacted Defense Law 13 (of 1992) to contain the pandemic, giving the government broad powers to limit basic rights. The then-Prime Minister Omar Razzaz reassured that the law “would be applied in the narrowest limits,” stressing the need to differentiate between the right to “express an opinion” and the “spread of rumors and false news which would spread panic” saying the latter will be “firmly” dealt with.

Soon after, the government imposed a three-day total lockdown followed by a strict daily curfew. Up until late April, one required a special permit to drive a car. Consecutively, economic activity was brought to a standstill.

Deploying laws

In mid-April 2020, the government issued Defense Order No. 8 which criminalized the publishing or circulation of news on any platform, including social media, about the pandemic that could create panic among people. Offenders could be liable to a 3,000 Jordanian dinars ($4,231 United States dollars) fine and/or imprisonment for up to 3 years.

This governmental grip on citizens’ rights to speech is enabled by Article 15.4 of the kingdom's constitution, which authorizes the government, upon declaring martial law or a state of emergency, to impose “limited censorship” on the press in matters relating to broadly-phrased “public safety” and “national defense.”

Arrests started in early April. Following the publication of a report citing day laborers’ financial hardships under lockdown, Faris Al-Sayegh, director-general of Ro’ya TV, and journalist Muhammad Al-Khalidi, were arrested and then released on bail.

Others documenting the plight of marginalized communities under COVID-19 met worse fates. Salim Akash, a Bangladeshi journalist and reporter for the Jago News website, was arrested mid-April and charged by Jordan with violating the telecommunications and anti-terrorism laws after circulating news on Facebook highlighting the challenges of Bangladeshi migrant workers under lockdown. Jordan's Ministry of Interior issued an order to deport Akash, who is, to this day, imprisoned in Jordan.

Shrinking horizons

Arrests soon went beyond the scope of COVID-19. On May 17, 2020, animal rights activist Ali Sarsour was detained over several Facebook posts. In one, Sarsour praised the queen of Jordan, who he claimed shared his surname  a link deemed offensive to Queen Rania  as his surname translates to “cockroach” in Arabic. In another post, Sarsour announced that he named his dog after the then-health minister. He was charged with lèse-majesté (i.e. defaming or insulting a member of the royal family)and insulting an official body and was detained for more than 60 days before being released on bail.

In June, an opinion piece that marked Jordan's Independence Day but criticized Jordan’s dependency on Western and Israeli influences landed its author, Saeed Thyab, Jordanian Democratic Popular Unity Party's secretary-general, in jail for 7 days. Founded in the 1990s, the Jordanian Democratic Popular Unity Party is a socialist political party that stands for Palestinian nationalism.

A month later, the closure of the teachers’ union sparked month-long protests across the kingdom. A government-imposed gag order stifled all news related to the protests throughout August. Some network throttling was also observed during protests. Once a rarity, media blackouts have recently become commonplace to silence journalists, and to limit investigations, and public debate. Subsequently, Basil Okour, the editor-in-chief of, was arrested for allegedly violating the gag order for reporting on people's reaction to the union's shutdown.

A more popular case was that of Jordanian caricaturist, Emad Hajjaj. Hajjaj was arrested on August 26, 2020, after publishing a cartoon criticizing the UAE-Israeli peace agreement that portrayed the crown prince of Abu Dhabi. Charged with “disturbing [Jordan’s] relations with a foreign state,” he was transferred to State Security Court, a court reserved for extreme cases such as drug trafficking and terrorism. Although he was released five days later on bail, his arrest is seen as a deterioration: it was Emad‘s first incarceration despite previous controversial cartoons, including ones portraying other heads of state.

On September 20, 2020, Badi al-Rafaiah, a senior member of the Islamic Action Front—Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood, was arrested on charges of “insulting the head of a foreign state” and lèse-majesté. His detention, which came against the background of months-old Facebook posts and retweets, coincided with Jordanians gearing up for parliamentary elections in which the brotherhood was a key contesting party, raising suspicion that the arrest was politically driven.

Not only was Badi's Facebook post nearly six months old, but it was also not an original one  his post endorsed someone else’s prayers that Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi had contracted COVID-19 from a senior Egyptian military official who died of the virus. Rafaiah was released on bail a few days later.

More recently, the prosecutor for the State Security Court ordered the arrest of Jamal Haddad for publishing a news article questioning whether government officials had received the COVID-19 vaccine before the general public. The government charged Haddad under the Anti-Terrorism Law. He was released on bail on December 29, 2020, following increased protests led by local journalists.

On December 28, 2020, lawyer Mohamad Almajali was charged with lèse-majesté, insulting an official body, and influencing the electoral process for putting forward his legal opinion regarding a signature on the royal decree approving the 2020 general elections. His case is in development.

Reacting to Almajali's case, human rights defender and lawyer Hala Deeb sarcastically tweeted “the sky's the limit indeed,” referring to prime minister Bisher al-Khasawneh's recent statement that “the sky's the limit when it comes to freedom of expression in Jordan.”

These detentions, as plenty as they are, have attracted public attention due to the prominence of those involved. There may be others whose arrests have gone unnoticed.

Prior to COVID-19, Jordan’s red lines of speech were largely discernible, delimited by a labyrinth of legal codes including the Cybercrime Law, Penal Code, Press & Publications Law, Anti-Terrorism Law, and the Telecommunications Law.

Over the years, journalists and activists have established a general sense of what could get them into trouble, and mostly conformed. According to a 2018 study, over 92 percent of journalists practiced self-censorship. Yet, the 2020 detentions – spurred by a climate of COVID-19 alarm – threw them off course, and indicated that Jordan is following in the grim footsteps of oppressive neighboring countries, like Saudi Arabia and Egypt, who detain journalists and human rights defenders on vague, unfounded, often terrorism charges.