Posts Tagged ‘celebrities’

Celebrities Who Risked Their Careers For Human Rights: You Always Have A Choice

February 8, 2021

Smrutisnat Jena, writing in scoopwhoop.com of 7 February 2021, lists 10 celebrities from different walks of life who risked their careers for things they believe in. Beginning with a post in 2014 [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/02/28/and-the-nominees-are-oscars-for-human-rights/] I have regularly referred to the use and abuse of star power (see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/celebrities/), and the article below is a welcome addition be it that such a list always remains a bit arbitrary and in this case very US-centered.  Where they are known to have received recognition through a human rights award this indicated with a link to the Digest.

1. Nina Simone

This African American musician was also a civil rights activist. With her unique voice and powerful music, she would often talk about the injustice and discrimination that black people had to face in the United States. And more often than not, radio stations, at the time, would simply refuse to have her on or play her songs. 

Source: Phillymag

2. Harry Belafonte

Another musician, Belafonte had his boyish charm and powerful voice do the work for him. But he was also a civil rights activist and a friend of Martin Luther King Jr. Due to this, the white American media ostracised him, labelled him a communist during the age of the McCarthism Witch Hunt. See also: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/2083D5D5-2B65-456E-8BB0-9CEFEE7B3EC0

Source: Essense

3. Colin Kaepernick

The former NFL quarterback is famous for taking a knee during the national anthem to protest against police brutality and the judicial murders of people of colour. As a result of this, not only was he demonised by ‘patriots’, who believed that he had insulted the American troops, but Kaepernick also lost his spot in the team and has been a free agent ever since. See also: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/c871b795-61a3-40e8-8635-37aeb02bc205

Source: Sky Sports

4. Sir Don Bradman

During his years as a cricket administrator, Sir Don Bradman met with South African President, John Vorster during the height of apartheid. Vorster was of the opinion that black people or people of colour were inferior and thus would be a curse on the game of cricket. Bradman then reportedly asked him if he knew who Sir Gary Sobers was. He came back to Australia and said ‘We will not play them until they choose a team on a non-racist basis’. Following this he cancelled Australia’s tour of South Africa.

Source: Sportsadda

5. Muhammed Ali

The greatest boxer of all time was also one of the fiercest defenders of human rights on the planet. When his name was drafted during the illegal war in Vietnam, Ali promptly refused to go. This not only cost him heavyweight title belt but the man also had to spend his prime years in jail. He had very famously said: My conscience won’t let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America… And shoot them for what? They never called me n*****, they never lynched me, they didn’t put no dogs on me, they didn’t rob me of my nationality, rape and kill my mother and father…Shoot them for what? How can I shoot them poor people? Just take me to jail. See also: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/76C5F0C9-D414-3DC0-BB0C-AFBD1EEDBD6A

Source: Respectability

6. Tommie Smith, John Carlos and Peter Norman

During the medal ceremony in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico, two African American athletes, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, each raised a black-gloved fist during the national anthem. They were also wearing black socks at the time to raise awareness about black poverty. The duo also had other symbols on them protesting the lynchings and murders of black people in America. 

Australian Peter Norman, who had been a staunch critic of the White Australia Policy, also participated in the protest. The three would never participate in the Olympics again and would be ostracised by their countries’ media for years to come. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/10/22/peter-norman-the-missing-third-man-that-famous-picture/]

Source: The Independent

7. Shabana Azmi

Following the murder of the communist playwright and director Safdar Hashmi, actor Shabana Azmi started protesting against the INC government. Addressing the crowd at the 12th International Film Festival of India in 1989, Azmi said: We filmmakers and film lovers wish to register out protest against the system that, on one hand, claims to promote creativity and on the other connive in the murder of a cultural activist.

8. John Boyega

Following the brutal murder of George Floyd at the hands of police officers, many celebrities stage rose in support of protests against police brutality. One of these celebrities was Star Wars actor John Boyega. Boyega, who was once advertised as a key selling point in the Star Wars franchise, had been gradually losing screen time as the series progressed. Many believed internalised racism was a cause of it. The actor was on the streets on the day of the protests and addressed the crowd: We have always been important. We have always meant something. We have always succeeded regardless. And now is the time. I ain’t waiting…We are a physical representation of our support for George Floyd. We are a physical representation of our support for Sandra Bland. We are a physical representation of our support for Trayvon Martin. We are a physical representation of our support for Stephen Lawrence… I don’t know if I’m going to have a career after this, but fuck that.

Source: John Boyega

9. Aretha Franklin

Franklin was known as the Queen of Soul. In fact, when she passed away, people referred to her as the best America ever had. However, when she was alive, she was a huge supporter of Angela Davis. Davis was and still is quite vocal about black rights, human rights, which at that time was frowned upon in the USA. So Franklin’s white audience wasn’t too please about her association with someone like Davis. 

Source: Hollywood Reporter

10. Paul Newman

Newman was a  famous Hollywood actor and director with awards like the Oscars and BAFTAs associated with his name. He was also one of the more consistent activists during the civil rights movement in the USA. He even marched with Martin Luther King in 1963, along with his colleagues that involved celebrities of the stature of Marlon Brando and Bob Dylan. 

Source: Medium

https://www.scoopwhoop.com/entertainment/celebrities-who-risked-their-careers-for-human-rights/

Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi resist big-money to advertise for Saudi Arabia

January 25, 2021

To all those who have been campaigning against sports washing, the latest news regarding Saudi Arabia missing out on football stars Ronaldo and Messi must come as a relief.

Alan Feehely – reports on in Football Espana that Cristiano Ronaldo has rejected an offer to advertise tourism in Saudi Arabia according to The Telegraph and carried by Marca.

The Portuguese was offered a reported figure of €6m per year. The agreement would have required Ronaldo to feature in commercial campaigns and visit the country. Lionel Messi also received an offer from Saudi Arabia, but like his great rival didn’t accept.

Through its “Visit Saudi” campaign it aims to become an attractive tourist destination, and enlisting the help of famous footballers would help in this greatly. [see also https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/01/11/new-low-in-saudi-sports-washing-fifa-leader-stars-in-saudi-pr-video/]

Saudi Arabia are trying to improve their image internationally, using sport as a principal tool. The country held last year’s Supercopa de Espana in Jeddah, with Madrid winning out ahead of Barcelona, Valencia and Atletico Madrid. The tournament caused quite the stir in the country. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/22/andrew-anderson-the-dangerous-game-of-sportswashing/

https://www.football-espana.net/2021/01/23/cristiano-ronaldo-and-lionel-messi-reject-big-money-offer-to-advertise-for-saudi-arabia

Vloggers selling their souls to boost image of Arab regimes

September 2, 2020

Mat Nashed in Ozy.com of 1 september 2020 addresses a major but often neglected issue: The Secret Weapon of Arab Regimes — Influencers and Vloggers. It is an excellent piece worth reading in full (see below). I have several times drawn attention to anti-human rights celebrity endorsements [e.g. see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/01/13/saudi-arabia-finds-that-celebrities-are-easier-to-buy-than-human-rights-ngos/] and sports washing [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/sports-washing/]/

Read the rest of this entry »

Belarus elections : will Tyga front for dictator Lukashenko?

August 7, 2020
The New-York-based Human Rights Foundation has a track record when it comes to pressurising celebrities for endorsing human rights violators [e.g.: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/18/will-janet-jackson-50-cent-and-tyga-perform-tomorrow-in-jeddah-and-what-will-they-say/]. This time it urges hip-hop artist Tyga to cancela his peformance at a government-sponsored concert in Belarus on August 8.

In 6 August, 2020 HRF’s President sent a letter to the American hip hop artist Tyga pointing  out that his performance is part of a plan to distract from the electoral fraud in the imminent election and prevent protesters from gathering at opposition rallies. The concert is organized and funded by the Belarusian dictatorship, led by Alexander Lukashenko. Under this regime, there is no freedom of speech, no freedom of assembly, and no freedom of association.

This performance, scheduled for the day before Belarus’ elections, is no coincidence. It is an excuse to cancel the opposition’s final electoral rally, and prevent ordinary Belarusians from showing their support for freedom and democracy,” said HRF president Thor Halvorssen. “It is also a deliberate attempt to turn attention away from the massive electoral fraud that is already taking place across the country.” Belarus’ elections, which haven’t been free or fair since 1994, have been met with extreme repression. As HRF recounted in its letter to the performer: “Protestors are grabbed off the street at random, and many are beaten bloody. The two most popular candidates in the upcoming presidential election, Viktor Babryka and Sergei Tikhanouvsky, were both arrested on trumped up charges. Many opposition activists have had to flee the country, along with their children, after receiving threats from the government.” “Tyga has been an outspoken advocate of the Black Lives Matter movement. He has urged followers to vote in local elections and take to the streets in protest. His support for Lukashenko’s regime will greatly undermine the activism he has encouraged in the United States, and provide the Belarusian dictator a useful propaganda stunt,” said Halvorssen. “We hope he will stand on the side of the people of Belarus as opposed to their oppressor. He must decline the invitation to perform for the dictator.” HRF requested that Tyga cancel his concert and use this media opportunity to send an urgent and categorical message of encouraging support to protestors in Belarus.

Latest: https://belsat.eu/en/news/head-of-presidential-candidate-cherachan-s-campaign-office-detained/

Read the letter in full: https://hrf.us14.list-manage.com/track/click?u=c5e3037cd362a8e29147b750c&id=d46741b1d8&e=f80cec329e

For some of my older posts on celebrities see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/star-power/

Saudi Arabia finds that celebrities are easier to buy than human rights NGOs

January 13, 2020
On 13 January 2020 Amnesty International has released a joint statement, along with Transparency International and Civicus, [https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/ior30/1649/2020/en/] explaining why it will not be engaging in this year’s C20 process, a cycle of preparatory meetings leading up to the annual G20 summit, which  started yesterday with a three-day “kick-off meeting”.

“The C20 is supposed to provide a platform for civil society voices from around the world to influence the G20 agenda. Since Saudi Arabia has locked up most of its own independent activists, the only domestic organizations present will be aligned with the government – which makes a mockery of the whole process,” said Netsanet Belay, Research and Advocacy Director at Amnesty International. “The C20 in Riyadh is a sham. We cannot participate in a process which is being abused by a state which censors all free speech, criminalizes activism for women’s and minority rights, as well as homosexuality, and tortures and executes critics.”

Saudi Arabia took over the G20 presidency in December 2019. It has recently invested in expensive PR campaigns to improve its image, and hosted several high-profile sporting events which draw international visitors [see e.g.: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/01/04/dakar-rally-starts-on-5-january-in-jeddah-but-hrds-in-jail/]. But behind this carefully cultivated façade, Saudi Arabia’s human rights record is as appalling as ever. Saudi Arabia is responsible for the extrajudicial execution of the journalist and peaceful critic Jamal Khashoggi. More than a year after his murder in October 2018, there has been no justice or accountability for his death. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/12/27/saudi-arabia-continues-to-buy-celebrities-this-time-for-the-mdl-beast-festival/]

The country’s leading women’s rights activists remain behind bars and on trial for their promotion of women’s rights in the country. Scores of other individuals, including human rights defenders, have been serving lengthy prison terms for their peaceful activism or have been arbitrarily detained for up to a year and a half without charges. The Saudi Arabian authorities have also carried out executions following unfair trials and routine torture and other ill-treatment in custody.

The Saudi-led C20 process has already failed to guarantee the C20’s fundamental principles. The appointment of the Chairs of working groups and various committees was opaque and non-consultative, while arbitrary decisions have excluded experienced international groups. The C20 process is led by the King Khalid Foundation, which is connected to the Saudi Royal Family, and cannot be considered as transparent, inclusive and participatory. Since the Saudi authorities ban political parties, trade unions and independent human rights groups, there is no way the C20 meetings can be the free and open discussions they are designed to be.

The full statement is available here

Saudi Arabia continues to buy celebrities, this time for the MDL Beast festival

December 27, 2019
Influencers, models, actors are given the will to promote the MDL beast in Saudi Arabia
Photographs through Daniele Venturelli / Getty

Jermaine Hoffman in Go Tech Daily of 23 Influencers, models, actors are given the will to promote the MDL beast in Saudi Arabia“. Another piece on the contoversial topic of celebrity endorsements [see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/10/26/celebrity-endorsements-and-the-dubai-expo-on-the-one-hand-and-the-other/].

This past weekend, the MDL Beast music festival was held in the capital of Saudi Arabia in Riyadh. Sold as the “biggest music event in the region,” it attracted some of the world’s greatest celebrities, including Winnie Harlow and Armie Hammer. It also attracted global controversy. Here’s an overview of what happened at the three-day festival, who was involved, and why people were upset.

J Balvin, Steve Aokie and David Guetta were placed as some of the great artists of the festival. Among the crowd were celebrities, influential artists and models who were invited to participate and promote MDL Beast on their personal social media platforms. Hollywood actors like Ryan Phillippe, Wilmer Valderrama and Armie Hammer attended, as well as models like Alessandra Ambrosio, Halima Aden, Imaan Hammam and Joan Smalls and Bollywood superstar Sonam Kapoor. Aden and Ambrosio later shared that they had been paid for an event post.

The festival was heavily portrayed on social media as a proud moment for Saudi Arabia – a “cultural shift”, according to Instagram’s contribution by Armie Hammer. These Western influencers and celebrities, however, are criticized for promoting Saudi Arabia as a tourist destination without mentioning human rights violations, and the festival itself gets resistance to whitening the image of Saudi Arabia.

[for some posts on Saudi Arabia see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/saudi-arabia/ ]

Phillip Picardi, the former editor of Teen Vogue and Out, spoke about the role of the festival in the country’s expanded tourism strategies. He wrote, “Extremely, deeply disappointed when I see people on my Instagram feed who have traveled to Saudi Arabia as part of their government image rehabilitation campaign.” Picardi later said, “Many headline reports are about displaying SA as changed and accepted, and trips seem to be coordinated with the government or tourist board. You really can’t “buy” this kind of news and what was your experience of who organized your trip and what can or cannot you say? “Among the people who commented on Armie Hammer’s social media posts were journalist Yashar Ali, who tweeted about the brutal assassination of Washington Post reporter Jamal Khashoggi, in which the CIA closed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. that the “main movie / television star” was allegedly offered an eight-figure amount to refuse.

While celebrities continue to talk about those who have decided to attend and promote a musical event, others support the role of the festival in improving Saudi Arabia’s image. Musician and author Kristina Bazan (who has 2.2 million followers on Instagram) commented on the contribution of Diet Prada, arguing that they point only to negative aspects. It pointed out: “A month ago the visa law was changed in Saudi Arabia, the Saudi government is trying to bring new energy and dynamism: social media have social resonance. How can we evolve as a globalized world and change things by boycotting areas that require new minds and ideas?

Modeled with more than 24 million Instagram followers, Emily Ratajkowski, aware of the power and resonance of social media, declined her paid invitation because of the discomfort she felt about the human rights record in Saudi Arabia. Diet Prada shared the statement they received from Ratajkowski about why she decided not to attend. “It is very important for me to clearly express my support for women’s rights, the LGBTQ community, freedom of expression and the right to free press,” read the statement. “I hope that I will focus more on the injustices that are happening there.

Influencers, models, actors are given the will to promote the MDL beast in Saudi Arabia

China, Arsenal, Ozil and freedom of expression…

December 16, 2019

On 16 December 2019 wrote in the Guardian “Craven Arsenal abandon Mesut Özil over his stance on China’s Uighur persecution“.  He argued that the midfielder is in tune with human rights groups over the imprisonment of millions of Uighurs but the club chose to raise a white flag. The incident touches on more than the freedom of expression of an individual player. ‘Sports washing’ (see earlier posts:  https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/sports-washing/) is a widespread phenomenon to which Arsenal itself in no stranger. It plays in the Emirates Stadium and in Emirates T-shirts (in a 280 million $ deal) without ever mentioning Ahmed Mansoor the UAE’s most prominent political prisoner [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/06/07/ahmed-mansoor-ten-years-jail-for-tweeting-and-a-street-named-after-you/]

A demonstrator in Istanbul holds up a picture of Arsenal’s Mesut Özil who expressed his horror at China’s treatment of the Uighurs.

On the Chinese social media site Weibo Arsenal quicly posted that Özil’s comments were merely his “personal opinion” and reminding that “Arsenal has always adhered to the principle of not involving itself in politics”. The article nicely quotes Simon Chadwick, a professor of sports enterprise at Salford University who specialises in China: “The world is in the midst of an ideological battle: western liberalism versus eastern authoritarianism. And sport is one of the front lines.”

Also saying it is just a personal opinion, seems a bit much:  Özil was entirely in tune with a United Nations panel and multiple human rights groups who have spoken out about the imprisonment of millions of Uighur people in internment camps without trial for “re-education” in what has been described as the largest incarceration of one ethnic group since the Holocaust, with multiple accounts of torture, rape and abuse from eyewitnesses who have passed through.

Celebrities have been criticised for NOT speaking out when they insist on touring human rights violating regimes (e.g. only last week Anthony Joshua was widely criticised for not speaking out about human rights in Saudi Arabia and Mariah Carey in July this year [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/10/nicki-minaj-did-the-right-thing-and-cancelled-her-performance-in-saudi-arabia/]. states” Yet can you blame sportspeople for staying quiet when they see Özil bravely raising his head above the parapet only to be shot down by his own club? As for Arsenal not involving themselves in politics, what did the club think they were doing when they agreed a £30m deal with the Rwandan government to promote tourism?

It would seem that what is ‘political’ is mostly determined by the sensitivity and power of the country being targeted. And in the case of China there is very little margin. Whether it is the according of awards to dissidents or accepting statements on Hong Kong by NBA officials [see more generally: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2012/12/06/china-and-its-amazing-sensitivity-on-human-rights-defenders/]. As stated: The decision by CCTV not to show Arsenal’s match against Manchester City is another reminder that there is no middle ground here. No way to stick up for human rights and free speech without angering China. You are either for such values or against them.

https://www.theguardian.com/football/2019/dec/16/arsenal-mesut-ozil-uighurs-china

Celebrity endorsements and the Dubai Expo: on the one hand and the other

October 26, 2019
Why will.i.am and Mariah Carey should say 'no' to Dubai Expo 

Serial sinner, Mariah Carey [see e.g.: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/10/nicki-minaj-did-the-right-thing-and-cancelled-her-performance-in-saudi-arabia/] performed this week at the one-year countdown to Dubai Expo 2020.  Lyndon Peters argues that celebrities, businesses and governments still have time to take a stand against UAE’s human rights record, and pull their support from Dubai Expo 2020.

Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan proclaimed 2019 as the ‘Year of Tolerance’, but for many it has been the Year of Intolerance. So far this year, the situation for human rights defenders and political prisoners in the UAE has deteriorated. Over 135 human rights organisations issued a joint call last week for the release of human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor in solitary confinement at Al-Sadr prison, Abu Dhabi [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/10/01/ahmed-mansoor-goes-on-second-hunger-strike-after-severe-prison-beating/ ].

Nevertheless it seems “The World’s Greatest Show” will go on and with the help of Mariah Carey, will.i.am and Lionel Messi; Dubai Expo 2020 is not short of celebrity endorsements!

That the issue of celebrity endorsements is not an easy is clear [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/11/star-power-and-human-rights-food-for-thought-by-kate-allen/] is clear considering that:
The rapper will.i.am provides the voiceover on an Expo 2020 promotional video in which he reels off a series of great accomplishments in the history of human civilisation. On the other hand, in 2007 ‘will.i.am’, as part of the Black Eyed Peas, recorded a song for a charity album called Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign to Save Darfur. Darfuris suffered massacres at the hands of Janjaweed militias. Rebranded as the RSF, former Janjaweed militias, are now a key ally of the UAE within Sudan itself, and have fought as mercenaries for the UAE and Saudi Arabia in Yemen and Libya.

– Meanwhile Lionel Messi is “Proud to be an Expo 2020 Dubai ambassador” and he features in a promotional video for the event. Still, in 2016 he donated $72,000 to the NGO Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF). MSF have provided medical services in various parts of Yemen during the ongoing conflict, and their hospitals have been hit by the airstrikes of the Saudi coalition of which the UAE is a member.That Lionel Messi and will.i.am would promote an event on behalf of the UAE government is unfathomable, especially considering their previous support for Medecins Sans Frontieres and Amnesty International respectively, states Peters.

….

With one year until Dubai Expo 2020, there is still time for trade delegations to reconsider their attendance and for businesses to consider their human rights policies. There is also time for the UAE to stop violating the rights of their own citizens, enforce protections for migrant workers and cease the harmful interventions in Yemen, Libya and Sudan.

https://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/comment/2019/10/24/will-i-am-mariah-carey-should-say-no-to-dubai-expo

Hollywood celebrities and human rights: backlash from China

August 30, 2019

Jocelyn Neo in the Epoch Times of 17 August 2019 traces the backlash from China against some of Hollywood’s best-know names for standing up against China on human rights related matters. As most of this is some time ago it is mostly for the record as this blog likes to keep up with star power and human rights [see e.g.: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/02/10/star-power-and-human-rights-a-difficult-but-doable-mix/%5D.

Read the rest of this entry »

Angelina Jolie extolls women human rights defenders in new essay

August 6, 2019

On 5 August 2019, Annie Martin wrote that “Angelina Jolie sends love to ‘wicked women‘ (women breaking rules and pushing boundaries) in new essay”

Angelina Jolie reflected on women’s rights and societal expectations in the September issue of Elle. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
The 44-year-old actress reflected on women’s rights and societal expectations in an essay for the September issue of Elle published Monday. Jolie began by asking the question, “What is it about the power of a woman free in mind and body that has been perceived as so dangerous throughout history.” She recounted how accusations of witchcraft have ben used “to control and silence women” in many societies throughout the centuries….”Since time immemorial, women who rebel against what is considered normal by society — even unintentionally — have been labeled as unnatural, weird, wicked, and dangerous. What is surprising is the extent to which this kind of myth and prejudice has persisted throughout the centuries and still colors the world we live in”Jolie discussed how modern women across the globe are considered “wicked” for such behaviors as dancing or singing in public, running for political office, or fighting for human rights. These women are sometimes met with violence, imprisonment or social ostracism. “Female human rights defenders across the world are incarcerated for their political views or for defending themselves or others, with courage I can hardly imagine. For all our modern advances, the independence and creative energy of women is still frequently seen as a dangerous force to be controlled, often in the name of religion, tradition, or culture,” Jolie wrote.

“Looked at in this light, ‘wicked women’ are just women who are tired of injustice and abuse,” she said. “Women who refuse to follow rules and codes they don’t believe are best for themselves or their families. Women who won’t give up on their voice and rights, even at the risk of death or imprisonment or rejection by their families and communities.” “If that is wickedness, then the world needs more wicked women,” the star declared.

For more on Angelina Jolie and her human rights work, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/angelina-jolie/

https://www.upi.com/Entertainment_News/2019/08/05/Angelina-Jolie-sends-love-to-wicked-women-in-new-essay/1591565015424/