Archive for the 'Human Rights Foundation' Category

Will Janet Jackson, 50 Cent and Tyga perform tomorrow in Jeddah and what will they say?

July 18, 2019

The Human Rights Foundation in New York continues its efforts to stop Saudi Arabia from using star power to shore up its reputation. Janet Jackson, 50 Cent, Future, Chris Brown, and Tyga are scheduled to perform at a concert on 18 July in Saudi Arabia. In a surprise, last-minute announcement, the Jeddah World Fest has added these high-profile performers to their concert, which is funded and authorized by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), one of the world’s worst human rights violators. Last week, their top-performer, Nicki Minaj, publicly cancelled her performance in solidarity with the Saudi LGBTQ+ community, Saudi women, and the principle of freedom of expression. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/10/nicki-minaj-did-the-right-thing-and-cancelled-her-performance-in-saudi-arabia/]

It’s clear that, after losing Nicki Minaj on the basis of the Saudi regime’s atrocious human rights record and their treatment of women and the gay community, the Crown Prince has chosen to spend whatever it takes to give the appearance that things are normal and that this is just another concert. Except it isn’t,” said Thor Halvorssen, president of the Human Rights Foundation (HRF). “It’s a blatant public relations push on the heels of the pre-meditated assassination of a Washington Post columnist and the ongoing imprisonment of dozens of human rights activists. Saudi is engaged in a sophisticated campaign of distraction. It’s baffling to the fans of Janet Jackson, 50 Cent, Liam Payne, and these other artists,  that despite knowing all of this, they still intend to perform. It’s profoundly distressing that they have chosen money over morals. These individuals constantly make public statements of support for LGBTQ+ rights, Black Lives Matter, and women’s rights, except, apparently, when a seven-figure check is attached. The hypocrisy is breathtaking. Principal apparently matters to them far more than principles.

HRF has written individually to each of these performers and explicitly referenced their previous positions on matters of women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights, public policy, and police brutality. ..

The artists who are scheduled to perform in Saudia Arabia tomorrow have a long track record of supporting human rights causes:

  • In 2008, Janet Jackson received the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) Vanguard Award. In 2010, she partnered with the Trevor Project’s “It Gets Better” campaign to support an initiative to reduce suicide and promote mental health among LGBTQ+ youth. In 2017, she received Out Magazine’s Music Icon Award. She accepted the Icon Award at the 2018 Billboard Awards (and as the first black woman to do so) and stated: “Women have made it clear we will no longer be controlled, manipulated, or abused.”  That same year, after accepting the Global Icon award at the MTV Europe Music Awards, she said the world could no longer tolerate gender inequality. Jackson also voiced her concern for gender inequality at the 2018 Global Citizen Festival saying: “I’m sick, I’m repulsed, I’m infuriated by the double standards that continue to [put] women as second-class citizens. Enough!”
  • Tyga was outspoken when the artist A$AP Rocky was arrested in Sweden. On Twitter he promoted the hashtag #FREEASAPROCKY and even went so far as to cancel his scheduled performance there on July 14. To that end, why wouldn’t he use the hashtag #FREELOUJAIN and cancel his Saudi Arabia appearance in solidarity with the imprisoned artists and activists there?
  • Chris Brown publicly expressed his frustration about artists who fail to raise their voices in favor of positive change. Expressing support for the Black Lives Matter movement, he said: “I am asking all the celebrities and people with actual voices … how about we speak up right now and help people? Can our voices actually mean something? Please?”
  • In 2011, 50 Cent performed for the enjoyment of the family of Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi. The public outcry and embarrassment was slow in coming but when it came it compelled him to donate his dictatorial paycheck to UNICEF.

HRF believes that the participation of these artists in a festival sponsored by a murderous, repressive regime involved in gross human rights violations  — especially of women and sexual minorities — would be highly unfortunate and would send the message that dictatorial regimes can simply purchase the endorsements of high-profile celebrities while simultaneously discouraging those in the population seeking to bring about peaceful transformation. HRF hopes that these artists will stand up for human rights, women’s rights, and the rights of sexual minorities by being outspoken when they take the stage in Saudi Arabia tomorrow.

For the letters see: Janet Jackson; 50 Cent; Chris Brown; Tyga; and Future.

In the meantime, Saudi Arabia has also signed another big boxing match in its sports washing drive:

Amir Khan claims he and Manny Pacquiao have both signed up for a fight and is targeting a meeting in Riyad later this year with Amnesty International calling on the Briton to speak out on Saudi Arabia’s human rights issues. The 32-year-old says the pair have both agreed terms with Riyadh the venue for a long-awaited bout. Khan won the WBC international welterweight title with a fourth-round stoppage of Billy Dib in Jeddah on Friday night. Now he intends to return to Saudi Arabia on November 8 to face former sparring partner Pacquiao, if the Filipino comes through unscathed against Keith Thurman in their WBA welterweight title fight in Las Vegas this weekend.

https://mynbc15.com/news/entertainment/janet-jackson-50-cent-to-perform-at-saudi-arabia-concert

Saudi Arabia Spends Millions to Add Last-Minute Performers Janet Jackson, 50 Cent, and Others to the Jeddah “World Fest”

https://www.birminghammail.co.uk/sport/other-sport/amir-khan-manny-pacquiao-sign-16604847

Nicki Minaj asked by human rights group to refuse Saudi money

July 9, 2019

The Human Rights Foundation sent a letter to the rapper Nicki Minaj asking her to cancel her performance on 18 july 2019 at a Saudi Arabia music festival being funded by controversial Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The organization said it “considers the Saudi regime to be one of the world’s worst human rights violators” and urged the singer, known for her provocative performances and racy lyrics “to cancel her performance, refuse the regime’s money and instead use her global influence to issue a statement demanding the release of the Saudi women activists who are currently in prison.

2018 MTV Video Music Awards - Photo Room - Radio City Music Hall, New York, U.S., August 20, 2018. - Rapper Nicki Minaj poses backstage with her Best Hip-Hop Video award for "Chun-Li." REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Nicki Minaj, at the 2018 MTV Video Music Awards. (Photo: REUTERS/Carlo Allegri)

This blog has referred to the tension between star power and human rights on ealrier occasions, see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/11/10/helen-hunt-joins-list-of-celebrities-that-show-insensitivity-on-human-rights/, and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/02/10/star-power-and-human-rights-a-difficult-but-doable-mix/

The letter also discusses the country’s abuse of its LGBTQ citizens, including how at least five men were beheaded in April for admitting to sexual relations with other men. It connected that to Minaj taking part “in World Pride festivities in her hometown of New York City” last month, pointing out the hypocrisy. Toward the end of the letter, the human rights group wrote, “If you move forward with this performance for a festival sponsored by the Crown Prince, you will be in league with the people who respond to freedom of expression and thought with murder.

The organization said it sent the letter weeks ahead of the show so that Minaj can’t claim she is unaware. It noted that in 2015, the organization condemned the singer for signing on to perform “for the dictatorial regime of former president José Eduardo dos Santos and his family in Angola” for $2 million. “She performed anyway — and later claimed she was ‘high’ when she made the decision to perform. This time, Minaj and her team have been briefed about MBS two weeks in advance of her scheduled performance and therefore she cannot claim ignorance.” Minaj has not publicly commented on the letter. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/12/18/merry-christmas-in-angola-nicki-minaj-performs-but-not-for-human-rights-defenders/]

Liam Payne and Steve Aoki are also part of the Jeddah World Fest, which was touted in a Saudi newspaper as the “largest musical festival of its kind in the region.”

HRF to Nicki Minaj: Cancel Show in Saudi Arabia

https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/nicki-minaj-asked-by-human-rights-group-to-pull-out-of-saudi-arabia-concert-refuse-the-regimes-money-192928036.html?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAALmfCLG92BT-v0iexBEYcxb_V_UClFIzMnnbsRT7NRT0gRQfdtYIxwIgPt6jtm9UYlo8tuWYoyocH7Z3F5z-IOAvRDcz-2pG38apDfDZacqxsMI7bhVxNo9C9X-aXtZU-InwRYf9JJTgjcnXLaurbWdhHi2jaKLe4M1pO8bLazHg

Today: Tiananmen Square 30 years ago was ‘correct’ but singing about it still not allowed

June 4, 2019

As many news outlets report today it is 30 years ago that China cracked down on Tiananmen Square. China tries mostly to forget about it and make others forget it about it too. Still, it recenty came out to defend it as the “correct policy”. “That incident was a political turbulence and the central government took measures to stop the turbulence which is a correct policy” Defence minister Wi Fenghe Wei told a regional security forum in Singapore. “The 30 years have proven that China has undergone major changes,” he said, adding that because of the government’s action at that time “China has enjoyed stability and development“. On the other hand Wu Qian, a spokesman for the defence ministry, decried the use of the word “suppression” to describe the crackdown.

But it does cover Chinese rock musician Li Zhi, who has been outspoken and sung songs about social issues including the Tiananmen Square crackdown, and has not been seen for three months. The South China Morning Post of 2 June has a detailed piece on what happened to this singer: His upcoming tour has been cancelled and his social media accounts taken down. Then his music was removed from all of China’s major streaming sites – as if his career had never existed at all. “Now this square is my grave,” Li sang. “Everything is just a dream.”

The disappearance of Li, the musician, has left fans searching for answers. On February 20, the official Weibo social media account for the 40-year-old’s concert tour posted a photograph of its team in front of a truck about to embark on scheduled performances in Sichuan province in China’s southwest. Just two days later, however, the account posted an image of a hand wearing what appeared to be a hospital wrist band and the words: “Very sorry.” The next post, published the same day, announced without explanation that the tour was cancelled and that ticket purchasers would shortly receive a refund. Fans flooded the comment section with wishes for a speedy recovery.

But the suggestion that a health issue was behind the cancellations was later thrown into doubt. A statement published in April by Sichuan’s culture department said it had “urgently halted” concert plans for a “well-known singer with improper conduct” who was previously slated for 23 performances – the same number of concerts which Li had scheduled in the province. It said 18,000 tickets were fully refunded.

..Li’s presence on the Chinese internet was completely erased. An April 21 central government directive ordered all websites to delete any audio or video content relating to five of Li’s songs, according to China Digital Times, an organisation that publishes leaked censorship instructions. The authenticity of the directive could not be independently verified.

“There’s pretty much a consensus” among those working in the industry that Li’s disappearance from public view is due to the sensitive anniversary, said a music industry professional who spoke on condition of anonymity because of fear of government retribution. “He did a number of songs that were considered politically risky, making references to June 4, 1989, and so he’s been out of the picture,” the industry professional said.

Li’s current whereabouts could not be confirmed. His company and record label did not respond to repeated interview requests. Li’s songs alluding to the Tiananmen Square protests – The Square, The Spring of 1990 and The Goddess, in honour of the Goddess of Democracy that students erected – were part of his earlier works. In recent years, the bespectacled singer has avoided making public political statements, focusing more on promoting his performances. In 2015, state-run China Daily newspaper published a profile of Li, describing him as a performer who easily sells out concerts. After years of working as an independent artist, he signed last autumn with Taihe Music Group, a major Chinese record label. Fans who knew Li as a largely apolitical entertainer expressed bewilderment online about his disappearance. Others made veiled references to China’s internet censorship. On Zhihu, a question-and-answer website similar to Quora, one user wrote that people posed questions every day about what might have happened to Li, but these posts always disappeared the next morning “as if nothing had happened at all”.

Another user said: “I don’t dare to say it, nor do I dare to ask.” A fan who has been sharing Li’s music on his personal account spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared his employers would punish him for discussing the subject. “Everyone knows the reason for Li Zhi’s disappearance,” the fan said. “But I’m sorry, I can’t tell you, because I follow China’s laws and also hope that Li Zhi can return.” Quoting one of Li’s lyrics, the fan added: “The world will be all right.” Fans continue to circulate videos of Li’s performances online. His complete discography has been uploaded onto file-sharing websites, with back-up links in case the original ones are shuttered. Some users shared tribute art, including a black T-shirt with the words “improper conduct”. A few years ago, in a performance in Taiwan, Li bounced around on stage, strumming his guitar and repeating a chorus in apparent tribute to the spirit of Chinese propaganda.

Foreign companies are not immune. Apple Music has removed from its Chinese streaming service a song by Hong Kong singer Jacky Cheung Hok-yau that references the Tiananmen crackdown. Tat Ming Pair, a Hong Kong duo, have been deleted entirely from the app. They released a song this month called Remembering is a Crime in memory of the protests.

Music by Tat Ming Pair – Anthony Wong Yiu-ming (left) and Tats Lau Yi-tat – has been deleted from the Apple Music app. Photo: K.Y. Cheng
Music by Tat Ming Pair – Anthony Wong Yiu-ming (left) and Tats Lau Yi-tat – has been deleted from the Apple Music app. Photo: K.Y. Cheng

Wikipedia also announced this month that the online encyclopaedia is no longer accessible in China. While the Chinese-language version has been blocked since 2015, most other languages could previously be viewed, Wikipedia said.

The Human Rights Foundation publised this video about China’s Million Person Muslim Prison Camps:

For the 25th anniversary see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/06/13/25-years-tiananmen-celebrated-with-over-100-detentions/

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/31/on-4-june-streets-around-chinese-embassy-to-be-renamed-tiananmen-square/

https://uk.news.yahoo.com/china-says-tiananmen-square-crackdown-1989-correct-policy-093500064.html

https://www.scmp.com/news/china/politics/article/3012782/outspoken-folk-rock-singer-li-zhi-disappears-china-tightens

Thai Anti-Junta Rap group awarded the Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent

May 27, 2019

Corrected version: Last week I announced the 3 laureates of the Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/15/2019-laureates-of-the-vaclac-havel-prize-for-creative-dissent-announced/] and one of them is Rap Against Dictatorship, which was threatened with legal action for their 2018 hit ‘My Country’s Got’, a viral rap video lambasting Thailand’s junta and justice system. Rap Against Dictatorship said two of its rappers are flying to Norway to attend the award ceremony, which will be held at the Oslo Freedom Forum – the same event which invited junta critic and Khaosod English writer Pravit Rojanaphruk to speak in 2015. “Liberate P and Jacoboi are our representatives to receive the prize. Please keep supporting us,” the group said.

My country preaches morals but has a crime rate higher than the Eiffel Tower. My country’s parliament house is a soldiers’ playground. My country points a gun at your throat,” read some of the lyrics.

Police officials considered filing sedition charges against the rappers, to much ridicule on social media, but no legal action was taken.

http://www.khaosodenglish.com/politics/2019/05/27/anti-junta-rappers-awarded-creative-dissent-prize/

 

2019 Laureates of the Vaclac Havel Prize for Creative Dissent announced

May 15, 2019

Today, 15 May 2019, the Human Rights Foundation (HRF) announced the three recipients of the 2019 Václav Havel International Prize for Creative Dissent. For more on this and other awards, see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/vaclav-havel-prize-for-creative-dissent. The laureates are Ramy Essam, an Egyptian musician in exile, Rap Against Dictatorship, an anti-authoritarian musical group from Thailand, and Rayma Suprani, a Venezuelan political cartoonist. More on these exceptional artists: Read the rest of this entry »

Third laureate of the 2018 Václav Havel International Prize for Creative Dissent now announced

May 27, 2018

On 27 May 2018 the Human Rights Foundation announced the third of three recipients of the 2018 Václav Havel International Prize for Creative Dissent, Vietnamese pop star and democracy advocate Mai Khoi. HRF delayed this announcement for fear that the Vietnamese government would ban Mai from traveling as a result of her pro-democracy activism. Mai will be recognized in a ceremony during the 2018 Oslo Freedom Forum on Wednesday alongside the two other 2018 Laureates, underground group Belarus Free Theatre and South Sudanese musician and former child soldier Emmanuel Jal. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/04/12/havel-prize-for-creative-dissent-2018-two-of-three-winners-announced-today/]

Khoi is an independent artist who is shaping public discourse in Vietnam. She reached stardom in 2010, when she won the highest award for songwriting in Vietnam. As a celebrity, Mai advocated for women’s rights, LGBT rights, and to end violence against women. More recently, she became the focal point of public discourse after nominating herself to run in the 2016 parliamentary elections. Her pro-democracy campaign sparked a nationwide debate about political participation and ultimately led to a meeting with then-U.S. President Barack Obama. Since running for parliament, Mai has had her concerts raided, has been evicted from her house twice, and is effectively banned from singing in Vietnam. In March 2018, she was detained at Hanoi airport on suspicion of “terrorism” after returning from a European tour.

Despite this harassment, Mai continues to find creative ways to spark conversation on art, human rights, and democracy. In February 2018, she released a new album, “Mai Khoi Chem Gio – Dissent.” In a review of the album, The Economist commented, “If music alone could break chains, this would be the music to do it.” Mai’s work aims to counter the authoritarian ways of thinking that justify social control. She is currently the subject of a feature-length documentary that is scheduled to air on Netflix in 2019.

Mai Khoi is outstanding in her commitment to human rights,” said Havel Prize Committee Chairman Thor Halvorssen. “Through her music and her campaigns, she has put civil liberties and democracy on the forefront of public conversation in Vietnam.

The Havel Prize ceremony will be broadcast live at oslofreedomforum.com at 3:00 p.m. Oslo time (GMT+2) on Wednesday, May 30.

https://mailchi.mp/hrf/2018-havel-prize-celebrates-vietnamese-musician-mai-khoi?e=f80cec329e

Havel Prize for Creative Dissent 2018: two of three winners announced today

April 12, 2018

On 12 April 2018 the Human Rights Foundation (HRF) announced two of the three recipients of the 2018 Václav Havel International Prize for Creative Dissent. This year’s laureates include the underground group Belarus Free Theatre and the South Sudanese hip hop musician and former child soldier Emmanuel Jal. Their efforts will be honored in a ceremony during the 2018 Oslo Freedom Forum on Wednesday, 30 May (to avoid possible travel restrictions imposed on the third laureate, the final award will be announced only in May).
For more on the this and other awards: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/vaclav-havel-prize-for-creative-dissent

Belarus Free Theatre (BFT) was founded in 2005 in response to the severe censorship and repression of Alexander Lukashenko’s regime. BFT has staged powerful social and political documentary theater from secret locations (private homes, cafes, and even the woods), characterized by stripped-down performances and topics, including refugees, climate change, torture, and sexuality. According to co-founder and artistic director Natalia Kaliada,In a country where the state seeks to control every aspect of life, everyone has the potential to rebel in their own way. And a million small acts of rebellion can chip away at even the most entrenched dictatorship.” In April 2017, the company had to postpone a premiere after several members were arrested or injured during large-scale, anti-government protests. BFT is the only theater company in Europe banned by its government on political grounds.

Emmanuel Jal is a South Sudanese hip hop artist and a former child soldier of Sudan’s brutal civil war that took place between 1983 and 2005. With five critically acclaimed albums, an autobiography, and a documentary to his name, Jal is focused on supporting South Sudanese youth with educational scholarships through his “Survivors of War” program. He founded the charity Gua Africa to work with individuals, families, and communities to help them overcome the effects of war and poverty. “Emmanuel uses powerful music as a vehicle to spread a message of freedom and hope for a better future in war-torn South Sudan. He inspires people everywhere to stand up for the freedom of others, and in so doing brings people closer together,” said Havel Prize Committee member Garry Kasparov.

The Havel Prize ceremony will be broadcast live at oslofreedomforum.com on Wednesday, 30 May. If you would like to attend the ceremony in Oslo please email info@hrf.org and follow @HRF and @OsloFF for updates.

For last year’s award see : https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/05/07/havel-prize-for-creative-dissent-recognizes-human-rights-defenders-in-bahrain-venezuela-and-zimbabwe/

https://mailchi.mp/40e79b190542/havel-prize-for-creative-dissent-celebrates-efforts-in-belarus-and-south-sudan?e=f80cec329e

Danny Glover uses his image to brush up venal Venezuela

March 30, 2018

The way celebrities involve themselves in human rights (positively or negatively) has been a topic in this blog several times [see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/02/28/and-the-nominees-are-oscars-for-human-rights/ and recently https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/11/10/helen-hunt-joins-list-of-celebrities-that-show-insensitivity-on-human-rights/]. Venezuela has played the game getting star power on its side, but the president of the New York based Human Rights Foundation, Thor Halvorssen, is quite right that when it concerns a UNICEF goodwill ambassador matters become more serious: “…the moment Danny Glover travels to Venezuela using the seal of the United Nations’ highest office that deals with children, then Glover’s statements deserve higher scrutiny,” Thus HRF’s demand that UNICEF should strip Danny Glover from its honorary Ambassadorship.

 

This Saturday in Caracas, Glover praised Maduro’s government for “advancing humanity through education, health, and other aspects that honor humankind.” Meanwhile, the dictatorship’s economic policies have brought over 30 million Venezuelans into the worst humanitarian crisis in the 200-year history of the country. In 2017, Venezuelans lost 24 pounds in average due to hunger and undernourishment and, according to NGO Caritas, 33% of Venezuela’s 10 million child population has stunted growth.
 
[HRF adds: “Danny Glover has behaved unspeakably in his support for the Venezuelan regime and his motivation is unbridled greed. Eleven years ago, Glover received close to 20 million dollars from the Venezuelan regime to produce a film that was never made, and the funds have yet to be returned to the Venezuelan people. The payment was a crude payoff, masked as a production budget, in order to ensure that Glover was a permanent public relations agent for the Venezuelan government. In doing so, Glover violated American laws regarding registration as a foreign agent. But most of all, he lost all credibility as a spokesperson for human rights,”]

(Early this year, the International Criminal Court in The Hague (ICC), Netherlands, opened an investigation against the Venezuelan regime for crimes against humanity, while the Organization of American States (OAS) has created a commission to investigate gross human rights violations committed by the regime and refer their results to the ICC.)

https://mailchi.mp/e97c4e3f959c/hrf-to-un-fire-danny-glover-from-unicef-ambassadorship?e=f80cec329e

Oslo Freedom Forum now also in Johannesburg (26 March 2018)

February 3, 2018

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HRF and Nelson Mandela Foundation Will Produce OFF in Johannesburg this March

On 26 March, 2018, the Human Rights Foundation (HRF) will bring the Oslo Freedom Forum experience and community together for the first-ever Oslo Freedom Forum in Johannesburg (OFFinJoburg). In 2017, HRF established a collaboration with the Nelson Mandela Foundation to bring the Oslo Freedom Forum to South Africa in 2018, the 100th anniversary of Mandela’s birth. OFFinJoburg will be held in Bryanston, Johannesburg, and live-streamed. You can register for the event here.

Speakers at OFFinJoburg will include Zimbabwean civil rights activist and #ThisFlag movement leader Evan Mawarire, former Maldivian president Mohamed Nasheed, Moroccan-born French free expression advocate and journalist Zineb El Rhazoui, Arab Spring writer and journalist Iyad el-Baghdadi, Chinese-Canadian actress and human rights activist Anastasia Lin, Angolan investigative journalist Rafael Marques de Morais, and Eritrean information activist and refugee rescuer Meron Estefanos, among others.

https://mailchi.mp/hrf/hrf-and-nelson-mandela-foundation-will-produce-off-in-johannesburg-this-march?e=f80cec329e