Pussy Riot trial is a turning point for Putin's Russia

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Opinion digest: Pussy Riot trial, Twitter censorship, helping Syria and the price of Olympic gold

LAST UPDATED AT 10:49 ON Wed 1 Aug 2012

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PUSSY RIOT TRIAL CAN GIVE RUSSIANS NEW HOPE
MASHA GESSEN ON PUNK PROTESTERS
Members of the punk rock band Pussy Riot were the first political prisoners of the current protest movement against Putin's regime, says Masha Gessen in The Guardian. More than a dozen activists have been arrested since then, most recently the prominent anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny. But Pussy Riot remains Russia's most important political trial. These three women personify the essence of the protests: they have no specific articulated political agenda, "they are just very loud and very expressive about wanting an end to the stifling rule of Putin and his cronies". They face seven years' jail for being loud and irreverent. This trial will define the future of Russia, it represents Russia choosing what path it should take. Will it be a country where people do exactly what they are directed, or "will it be a country where people can speak – and sing – their minds, even when and where others may find it offensive"?

TWITTER TYRANNY
MELANIE PHILLIPS ON SOCIAL MEDIA CENSORSHIP
We're in the middle of a raging freedom of speech firestorm - and no one has a clue what to do about it, says Melanie Phillips in the Daily Mail. The most recent example is the 17-year-old boy arrested for offensive Twitter comments about Olympic diver Tom Daley. The boy was arrested under the Malicious Communications Act, a little-known law that makes it an offence to send an electronic communication that conveys a grossly offensive message intended to cause distress or anxiety. But while Twitter comments are often offensive, prosecuting all offenders is unenforceable, not to mention potentially oppressive. "Insult should never be criminalised because it is highly subjective." All kinds of speech or writing are unpleasant, insulting or offensive to someone or other. But "the right response is to use freedom of speech to object" - not to make the act of giving offence into a crime.
 
WE WILL PAY THE PRICE FOR NOT HELPING SYRIA'S REBELS
ANNE-MARIE SLAUGHTER ON THE SYRIAN UPRISING
Sooner or later some combination of the opposition groups will control Syria, says Anne-Marie Slaughter in Financial Times, and when they do, they'll remember who helped them. "Their memories of who did what during the struggle to achieve a democratic Syria are going to matter far more to the US and Europe than policy makers presently calculate". There are real risks in getting involved in this conflict, but there are greater risks in staying on the sidelines. The arms flowing to rebels from Qatar and Saudi Arabia are going to Islamist members of the opposition and "could push a future Syrian government in dangerous directions" for the US and Europe. The ongoing conflict could also spill over into Turkey, Iraq and even Jordan, while a regime collapse could leave chaos and unsecured chemical weapons. It's time for bold action to secure the health and stability of what is still "the most geo-strategically important region in the world". 

SOMETIMES THE PRICE OF SUCCESS IS TOO HIGH
CHRISTINA PATTERSON ON CHINESE SWIMMER YE SHIWEN
Ye Shiwen is very, very fast, says Christina Patterson in The Independent. The 16-year-old Chinese gold medallist is so fast that some people don't believe she achieved her record-smashing swim without the help of drugs. It's true that her swim didn't seem normal. But there is nothing about her short life that has been normal. She was seven when she was picked out by China's sporting talent spotters and sent to the country's specialist ‘training camps'. These aren't the sort of camps where children are sent to be happy, but the sort where they often cry in pain, where they are not told that winning medals will make their country proud, but that not winning them will make their country ashamed. Sometimes the price of "success" is too high. A bronze won by someone who trained and entered the Olympics because they wanted to can be worth "an awful lot more than gold". · 

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