Freedom not Fear in Brussels

Freedom not Fear. Svoboda místo strachu. Freiheit statt angst. Слобода уместо страха. La liberté pas la peur. In all languages, in many countries throughout the whole Europe a popular event was held in order to point out the importance of freedom in current digitized world.

Brussels is called the Capital of Europe (well according to Wikipedia also as a Comic city, which seems to be not very far from truth). Most of the events related to the Freedom not Fear therefore took place there.

One might say that yes - we had a conference. One might have a picture in his head: A boring conference in a center, where people do speak for hours and hours. However, this case was not the truth. Freedom not Fear is a popular event, where various movements participate. Most of them are deeply interested in the topics of our event. They did not come from Brussels or Belgium only; the participation was international. And there were not only speeches or presentation. We had several workshops as well. And what were the workshops about? Surveillance.


Yes, surveillance is one of the major topics these days. It all started with the unveils of Edward Snowden. Even the opening speech of Freedom not Fear by Caspar Bowden here in Brussels was dedicated mostly to the current state of surveillance. In order to show everyone that we are being constantly watched pretty much everywhere (my personal impression from the keynote speech was that your existence might be safe only when you are 100 metres underground and isolated from the rest of the world) we organized an event called "the surveillance walk".

During the Saturday afternoon we simply had a walk throughout the European quarter of Brussels. A normal walk one might say. A demonstration, perhaps another can conclude. But this was no protest; no transparents were brought and no slogans or political proclamations were made. It was just a small happening and a bit of sightseeing: The European Parliament building, Berlaymont, British representation centre, Irish Embassy, German Embassy and in the end Embassy of the one and only - United States of America.

I must say that since I've arrived to Brussels I always wanted to make a nice walk through some of the parts of the town. So this event was a good opportunity. But our presence (about 30 people) drew some attention. Sitting in front of the British representation to the European Union building for longer than... two minutes resulted in one police car arriving. Staying there for a bit longer time ... and even a police van arrived. It was a nice non-verbal communication. We were watched by the police for the rest of the walk.. which pretty much proved the point of the surveillance walk.

Our nice sightseeing tour ended in front of the American Embassy. Some of us decided to handle letters against the current surveillance programs to the embassy staff. However, when we wanted them to take the letters, the letterbox "was closed". The security asked us not to take pictures of the building nor them for "security reasons". Then a mysterious guy appeared, speaking about "playing games" and stuff. While we were wondering around who was he (he did not show any badge at all) or what was he doing, he asked us to leave "or else". The else meant that he will be taking pictures of us (without our consent of course). Again a nice thing to see during a ... surveillance walk. In order not to escalate the situation, we decided to leave the place.


During Sunday, there was a lot of interesting sessions and presentations about the current threats to privacy. I've visited several of these and two of them came to my attention especially: The speech of one of the polish activist about drones and their usage in recent years in Europe and the Net neutrality session - how is this issue being dealt inside of the European Commission. But returning to the first presentation: It was a nice one. Until then I would not imagine the ways how drones are being used today: not only for bombing the terrorist outposts in faraway countries, but also for traffic or crime monitoring. A simple drone can work automatically and it can stay in the air for even a day.

Even if both of these things were very interesting, I have to admit that dealing with legal proposals of the Commission especially after lunch can be a very hard task. And as I've realized later, I was not the only one fighting for staying concentrated or awake. There was pretty much no chance.

I would like to thank to the Hackerspace Belgium for organizing a nice closing event. We had a really great barbecue on Sunday night. Even Amelia came to the event so we could have a nice discussion related to pretty much everything that is going around, including the Belgium energy policy - initiated by a fact that you have a country with almost all highways illuminated at night, but pretty much of these lamps do not work at night. This somehow sticks to one's mind.


Most of the conferences end on Sunday. But Freedom not Fear is a different kind of an event. The Monday most of the visitors of our event had a chance to see the European Parliament building. But it was not a tourist trip only. There were meetings with various members of the European Parliament (for example Jan Filipp Albrecht, Josef Weidenholzer, Paul Nemitz, Thomas Zerdick and Claude Morales.

As it goes with most of the events inside of the parliament, it is mostly impossible to see all the events. I've participated at the roundable with Josef Weidenholzer, member of the Social Democrats group in the Parliament. There is a data protecton reform file right now in the parliament and much of the proposal was discussed during that meeting. Guys from German and Austrian citizen initiatives were also participating. Pretty much was told about the current issues and supports that can various groups in the European Parliament provide. But then again - I had a lot of stuff to do so I had to leave the session earlier.

And as about the evening - the the Freedom not Fear event ended for me in front of the European Parliament building. I got the Traveling t-shirt to a German Pirate, so the nice Dresden Neustadt t-shirt will go back to Germany (although this time to Hessen)... So speaking about the places visited.. we have Dresden, Brussels, Luxembourg, And then again we'll have some destinations in Germany. Let's hope that the t-shirt will not be lost, but will it have another opportunities to travel.


Lägg till ny kommentar