And the Nominees Are……Oscars for Human-Rights !!

February 28, 2014

Regular readers of this blog know that I like the idea of holding  celebrities accountable (most recently: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/02/10/star-power-and-human-rights-a-difficult-but-doable-mix/).   The reason is that there is a mutually reinforcing (and for many profitable) interaction between the stars and the media (which in turn feed on the interest of the public). Celebrities’ views on all kind of issues – including human rights –  can hardly be called private. Their social media are virtual industries and influence millions globally. So it seems a good idea to have an annual look at which celebrities have advanced and which have harmed the cause of human rights around the world. Halvorssen and Leigh Hancock ( of the Human Rights Foundation) have done exactly that in the Atlantic on 27 February 2004 and linked it to the upcoming Oscars night on Sunday. 

(Gary Hershorn/Reuters)

The list of celebrities deserving recognition for their accomplishments in the field of human rights or those who should be ashamed for supporting human-rights violators, is long and contains many video links. Like the real Oscars, the list is slanted in terms of geopolitical interest and I think that if all major international human rights organisations would get together to agree on a list if would be more balanced, but that is probably wishful thinking. Still, the Human Rights Foundation deserves credit for this creative initiative. and here is the summary:

The Nominees for Outstanding Work in the Field of Human Rights

1. George Clooney and Arnold Schwarzenegger (inter alia for supporting pro-democracy protesters in Ukraine and condemning the government’s violent crackdown)

2. Madonna (her comments “Fascism is alive and thriving in Venezuela and Russia. The Ukraine isn’t far behind!” were retweeted more than 20,000 times)

3. Khalid Abdalla (star of the film The Kite Runner, also featured in one of this year’s Oscar-nominated documentaries for standing up to the Egyptian dictatorship, ‘The Square’, where he spent six months. He has denounced the recent military-backed government: “We have thousands of people in prison, …we do not have freedom of speech, and we do not have freedom of press.”)

4. Jon Stewart (Host of the Daily Show host has supported the Egyptian comedian and television host Bassem Youssef, who has faced threats and censorship from both the Morsi regime and the current military government. In 2013, Stewart appeared on Youssef’s show before it was pulled off the air, telling him “you have my undying support and friendship.”)

5. Cui Jian (The ‘father of Chinese rock’ refused to participate in the 2014 Spring Festival Gala, a televised program watched by hundreds of millions on the eve of the Chinese New Year, because he had to change some of his lyrics. Publicly proclaiming that he would never censor his music.

6. Ben Kingsley and Susan Sarandon (for expressing support for anti-government protesters in Turkey by sponsoring an open letter in the London Times – “There are more journalists languishing in your prisons than the combined number of those in China and Iran.”)

7. Colin Firth and Emma Thompson (for combating issues as diverse as human trafficking and rights violations in the Congo, refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria)

8. Gabriela Montero (Venezuelan-American concert pianist has criticized Venezuela’s government; composed “Ex-Patria” in 2011 to give a voice to political prisoners)

9. Bono (for initiating large-scale human-rights projects around the world and inspiring other stars to get involved in human-rights causes; has also successfully pushed for legislation in the U.S. and European Union mandating greater transparency in corporate dealings with African governments)

10. Cher, Harvey Fierstein, Stephen Fry, Lady Gaga, Elton John, Garry Kasparov, Wentworth Miller, and Tilda Swinton (for opposing the Russian “anti-gay propaganda” law issued prior to the Sochi Games)

THE NOMINEES FOR SHAMEFUL BEHAVIOR IN THE FIELD OF HUMAN RIGHTS

1. Jennifer Lopez (June 2013 she celebrated with gusto the birthday of Turkmen dictator Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov – and receiving $1.5 million. Lopez tweeted about how excited she was to be there despite the fact that Twitter is banned in Turkmenistan and the country’s only ISP is controlled by the regime. Lopez publicist stated that “had there been knowledge of human rights issues of any kind, Jennifer would not have attended.”

2. Mariah Carey (In 2011, the pop diva issued mea culpas for reportedly earning $1 million to perform at a party hosted by the son of Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi. “I was naive and unaware of who I was booked to perform for,” she said. “I feel horrible and embarrassed to have participated in this mess. Ultimately we as artists are to be held accountable.” However, in December 2013, Carey received another $1 million to perform a two-hour concert at a fundraiser produced (and attended) by the family of Angola’s dictator. When confronted with the fact that his client previous pledge, Carey’s manager Jermaine Dupri said this “was not his problem” since he wasn’t her manager when she performed for the Qaddafi family. He admitted to setting up the concert and doing no research into Angola. Carey didn’t bother to issue an apology – see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2013/12/19/mariah-carey-needs-better-informed-staff-and-donate-her-1-million-fee-to-human-rights-defenders-in-angola/)

3. Kim Kardashian and Kanye West (In 2012, Kim traveled to Bahrain to promote a chain of milkshake shops. During her trip, she tweeted, “I’m in love with The Kingdom of Bahrain” and saying “Everyone from the States has to come and visit.” Kim did not say a word about those tortured, jailed, or disappeared). Kanye, was reportedly paid a whopping $3 million to perform at the wedding of Kazakhstani dictator Nursultan Nazarbayev.)

4. Dennis Rodman (the former NBA star has a bizarre relationship with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un; on his last trip to the Hermit Kingdom, he even brought former NBA players to stage an exhibition game for his good friend, the Dear Leader.)

5. Gustavo Dudamel (On 12 February, the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Venezuelan-born maestro was conducting mambo music for Venezuelan President Maduro while Venezuelan security forces violently repressed student demonstrations nearby.)

6. Fat Joe, Julio Iglesias, and the Spanish soccer team (for their support of the dictatorship of Equatorial Guinea under President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo).

The full article can be found at: And the Nominees for Best Human-Rights Work … – Thor Halvorssen and Jamie Leigh Hancock – The Atlanti

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