Fight Back! News

News and Views from the People's Struggle

Facebook Censors Ricardo Palmera Group

By Josh Sykes

Fight Back! interviewed Josh Sykes of the National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera about facebook shutting down the “Free Ricardo Palmera” group on June 30. Then, on July 7, facebook disabled Josh Sykes’ personal account, along with the accounts of Angela Denio and Tom Burke.

Fight Back!: Josh, can you tell us about the “Free Ricardo Palmera” group?

Josh Sykes: The “Free Ricardo Palmera” group was a facebook group administered by three activists with the National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera. Professor Palmera is a political prisoner in the United States. He was a leading peace negotiator with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People's Army (FARC-EP). Since he was first arrested on a mission to meet with a United Nations representative in Ecuador and then extradited to the U.S., the National Committee has worked for his freedom. The extradition and imprisonment of Palmera, a true freedom fighter, goes against Colombian sovereignty and is a slap in the face to the Colombian people. Palmera is a good man who was railroaded in an attempt by the U.S. to criminalize the national liberation struggle in Colombia. The facebook group was one of many ways the National Committee got out information about the struggle to free Ricardo Palmera. When facebook shut it down it had more than 700 members from around the world, with many from the U.S. and Latin America. It was a good resource for us and we are working to get it back.

Fight Back!: Why was the group shut down?

Sykes: Facebook's reason was that it violated the ‘terms of use’ so they shut it down on June 30. They said that it was obscene, that it attacked people, or was hateful. Nothing could be further from the truth. They also threatened the administrators of the group with having their profiles disabled if we continued to “abuse” facebook features – which we never did. Of course it wasn't really about any of those things. We are a group advocating justice. Ricardo Palmera’s human rights are being violated. He is in solitary confinement [at the SuperMax prison in Colorado] with no human contact. He is held under ‘special administrative measures’ where the U.S. government says journalists cannot interview him, we are not allowed to visit him and when American supporters write letters they are returned saying Palmera is not permitted to read them. Palmera is currently on ‘trial by video’ in Colombia and he is shackled from head to ankle and threatened with electric shock if he moves too quickly. He cannot possibly get a fair trial this way. We continue to demand, “Free Ricardo Palmera!”

One possibility is that facebook is censoring views they don't like. They've shut down a number of groups operating in solidarity with the Palestinian people, for instance. Another possibility is that the U.S. State Department put pressure on the bosses at facebook to shut us down, just like they put pressure on the U.S. judges during the trials and sentencing of Professor Palmera. In any case, facebook is acting like the Colombian government’s death squads trying to shut people up for speaking out against the rich and powerful.

Fight Back!: What are the latest developments?

Sykes: There is what facebook calls an appeals process, which is nothing more than a run-around. Today facebook disabled the accounts of myself and the two other administrators of the Free Ricardo Palmera group, Angela Denio and Tom Burke, with no warning and no reason given. We are appealing that too. Meanwhile, we are asking that people stand up and oppose this blatant censorship on the part of facebook.

Call facebook CEO Mark Zukerberg at (650) 543-4800 and demand that the Free Ricardo Palmera group, and the accounts of the three administrators, be reinstated. Join the protest group, here: Demand an end to facebook's censorship. Stop the attacks on progressive causes and activists.

#UnitedStates #Culture #Colombia #RicardoPalmera #facebook #censorship #PoliticalPrisoners