Posts Tagged ‘celebrities’

Merry Christmas in Angola: Nicki Minaj performs but not for human rights defenders

December 18, 2015

  Nicki minaj algora.

Nicki Minaj and Jose Eduardo dos Santos. Photo illustration by Sofya Levina. Images by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images and Alexander Joe/Getty Images.

The Human Rights Foundation (through  and ) is asking whether Nicki Minaj will “take the high road or a blood diamond paycheck“?  On Saturday afternoon the American rapper Nicki Minaj will bring her award-winning talent to the Angolan capital of Luanda. It isn’t a world tour stop, but a special engagement at a “Christmas Festival” sponsored by Unitel, a telecommunications company controlled by Angola’s dictatorship.

[Two years ago, Mariah Carey was paid $1 million to perform in Angola at another one of the regime’s holiday parties. Since she had promised to never perform for dictators again after singing for Libya’s Qaddafi family, the public wasn’t forgiving the second time around. The result was a global PR scandal that led Carey to sever ties with Jermaine Dupri, the manager who arranged the visit. – 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/].

The situation of human rights defenders in Angola is most precarious:

15 pro-democracy activists were detained in June 2015 and their trial started only after almost five months of arbitrary detention. The persons on trial include rapper (!) Henrique Luaty Beirão (a.k.a. Brigadeiro Mata-Frakuxz), Manuel Nito Alves, Nuno Alvaro Dala, Nelson Dibango Mendes Dos Santos, Alfonso Jojo Matias (a.k.a. Mbanza Hamza), Sedrick de Carvalho, Fernando António Tómas (a.k.a. Nicola Radical), Hitler Chiconda (a.k.a. Samussuku), Italiano Arante Kivuvu, Benedito Dali (a.k.a. Dito Dali), Albano Bingobingo (a.k.a. Albano Liberdade), José Gomes Hata (a.k.a. Cheik Hata), Inocénio De Brito (a.k.a. Drux), Domingos da Cruz as well as of Osvaldo Caholo. (Ms. Rosa Kusso Conde and Ms. Laurinda Manuel Gouveia are also facing the same charges, but are not detained. [The Angola 15 are youth activists arrested in June 2015 for discussing democratic reforms and peaceful protest. Most of them are known pro-democracy activists, who have been organizing peaceful protests often repressed by the authorities against the 35-year-regime of Angolan President Eduardo Dos Santos since 2011. On September 16, 2015, they were charged with “preparatory acts of rebellion” and “plotting against the President and other institutions”, both of which constitute crimes against the security of the Angolan State. Several experts and international institutions have called for their release, including the European Parliament and the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst.]

On 15 December 2015 the Luanda Provincial Tribunal approved the request of the Public Prosecutor to place the pro-democracy activists detained since June 2015 under house arrest as of December 18. According to a public statement made by the General Attorney, this decision precedes the entry into force on December 18, 2015, of a new legislation on preventive measures adopted in September 2015, aimed at reducing prison overcrowding and excessive pre-trial detentions – and thus not the result of international pressure!. “The decision to place the Angola 15 under house arrest is a positive step towards the recognition of their rights. The Angolan authorities must now end all forms of judicial harassment against the activists and put an end to their ordeal by immediately and unconditionally releasing them”, FIDH President Karim Lahidji said

On 18 June 2015 the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders condemned the sentencing of journalist Rafael Marques de Morais to a six month suspended jail term, despite an out of court settlement previously announced. [see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/rafael-marques-de-morais/]

Interesting is also to note here how two quasi-NGOs (in the NGO world, called GONGOs – Governmental Non-Governmental Organizations –  masquerading as protectors of the rights of the people while working as the mouthpiece for the government) tried to block a resolution by the NGO forum surrounding the session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in November 2015.

Front Line Defenders also has followed the case of the Angola 15 and other human rights defenders in detail: https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/search/node/angola 

Sources:

Nicki Minaj shouldn’t perform for Angolan dictator Jose Eduardo dos Santos.

http://www.omct.org/human-rights-defenders/urgent-interventions/angola/2015/12/d23533/

https://www.fidh.org/en/issues/human-rights-defenders/angola-the-angola-15-must-be-released-and-their-right-to-a-fair-trial

http://newint.org/blog/2015/12/16/angola-human-rights-trial/

http://allafrica.com/stories/201511051396.html

https://www.fidh.org/en/region/Africa/angola/angola-rafael-marques-de-morais-sentenced-to-a-six-month-suspended

UNHCR launches 2015 World Refugee Day with celebrity support

June 17, 2015

For World Refugee Day 2015 (20 June) the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees [UNHCR] has released several films featuring celebrity supporters that tell the human side of the refugee plight. This years’ campaign aims to bring the public closer to the story, showing refugees as ordinary people living in extraordinary circumstances. World Refugee Day 2015 is marked against a backdrop of multiple conflicts, growing numbers of forcibly displaced people and a rising tide of intolerance and xenophobia in many parts of the world.

The films feature UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador and best-selling author, Khaled Hosseini, photographer and supermodel Helena Christensen, singer/songwriter Maher Zain and actor Jung Woo-Sung . The films were recorded during recent field visits. Each supporter introduces an individual refugee and their story. These films and other refugee stories can be found on UNHCR’s Campaign website: www.refugeeday.org.

UNHCR offices in some 120 countries are planning various events including the film première of Salam Neighbor in Washington D.C.

 

The site www.refugeeday.org features stories from refugees who describe in their own words their own passions and interests; cooking, music, poetry, or sports. Through their testimonials UNHCR aims to show that these are ordinary people living through extraordinary times.

via UNHCR – UNHCR launches its 2015 World Refugee Day Campaign.

George Clooney speaks out on sexual violence in Darfur

February 26, 2015

Getty Images

Whatever your opinion of George Clooney as an actor, there is no doubt that he is one of the most willing to use his celebrity for human rights causes. The latest example is his Op-Ed piece in the The New York Times, entitled, “George Clooney on Sudan’s Rape of Darfur” (together with John Prendergast and Akshaya Kumar, published on 25 February 2015)  .

Because Sudan’s government routinely blocks journalists from going into the Darfur region and severely restricts access for humanitarian workers, any window into life there is limited,” Clooney says. “The government has hammered the joint peacekeeping mission of the United Nations and African Union into silence about human rights concerns by shutting down the United Nations human rights office in the capital, Khartoum, hampering investigators of alleged human rights abuses and pressuring the peacekeeping force to withdraw.

The 53-year-old actor then explains the evidence that has been received from citizen journalists and local human rights defenders with that videos have been smuggled out.

Read the complete piece here.

Tony Blair’s Children’s Award in contrast with his PR work for a dictator

November 27, 2014

This blog has always had keen interest in awards and in celebrities abusing their reputation. The current row over Tony Blair receiving an award from Save the Children USA as described by Katie Nguyen of Reuters on 26 November 2014 is exactly at the crossroads of these two interest.

Quartet Representative to the Middle East and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair attends the International donors conference on financing the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip in Cairo October 12, 2014.  REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Files
(former British Prime Minister Tony Blair at International donors conference on October 12, 2014. 
CREDIT: REUTERS/MOHAMED ABD EL GHANY/FILES)
Save the Children’s U.S.A chapter gave its annual Global Legacy Award to former British prime minister Tony Blair last week. It stated that it was to recognise Blair’s role in persuading the G8 to agree to debt relief of $40 billion for the poorest nations. Staff working for the charity were furious about the award, the Guardian newspaper reported and more than 100,000 people have signed a petition demanding that Save the Children revoke the award.

Read the rest of this entry »

Sean Penn uses star power for good in Dublin

March 7, 2014

Sean Penn is in Dublin today, 7 March, to hand out a human rights award. The winner of the 2014 Front Line Defenders Award was chosen from 110 nominations from 51 countries. Members of the Irish and European Parliaments, representatives of Front Line Defenders and Al Jazeera Media Network made up the judging panel. Jim Loughran, of Front Line Defenders said: “Sean Penn’s support is hugely important in terms of driving publicity…As one human rights defender said to us recently, if you are visible, you have rights. If you are invisible, you are a victim.” He presented the award to a Pakistani woman rights defender, Noorzia Afridi, who founded the Society for Appraisal and Women Empowerment in Rural Areas (SAWERA) along with her sister Fareeda “Kokikhel”, who was shot dead on her way to work in 2012.

Penn in Dublin to give human rights award | Irish Examiner.

It shows that star power can be used for good and I should have listed Penn in: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/02/10/star-power-and-human-rights-a-difficult-but-doable-mix/

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 Read the rest of this entry »

Star power and human rights: a difficult but doable mix

February 10, 2014

RED-FACED. Jennifer Lopez performing for the leader of 'one of the world's most repressive regimes,' according to Human Rights Watch. Photo by Agence France-Presse/Igor Sasin

 (Jennifer Lopez performing for the leader Turkmenistan. (c) Agence France-Presse/Igor Sasin)

In quite a few earlier posts in this blog I have drawn attention to stars and celebrities who either support dictators or simply do not care that their actions do. So, I was quite happy to see a thoughtful piece by Jo Biddle of Agence France-Presse on 9 February 2014 analyzing this issue a bit more in-depth, with actress Scarlett Johansson as the “poster girl of Israeli apartheid”, Dennis Rodman in North Korea, and Kim Kardashian expressing her love of Bahrain. I would add, Mariah Carey who thinks nothing of singing for Gaddafi or the Angolan President, while Jennifer Lopez (picture above) did the same in Turkmenistan.

The author rightly states that when celebrities wander into complex foreign policy issues, it can be a minefield, leaving diplomats and human rights campaigners scrambling for damage control. The article mentions exceptions such as Bob Geldof, Bono, George Clooney or Angelina Jolie Read the rest of this entry »

Grammy-winning Esperanza Spalding performs on-line against Guantanamo tomorrow

January 28, 2014

Grammy award-winning Esperanza Spalding and Human Rights First bring a LIVE online broadcast of Spotlight on Guantanamo, a night of performance and discussion from Washington, DC’s historic Lincoln Theatre. In November 2013, Esperanza Spalding launched her new music video titled ”We Are America” to urge Congress to close Guantanamo responsibly. You can watch the live stream via the link below starting at 19h00 (Washington DC time) on Wednesday 29 January.

via Spotlight on Guantanamo: An Evening with Esperanza Spalding [Live Stream] | Human Rights First.

Mariah Carey needs better-informed staff and donate her 1 million fee to Human Rights Defenders in Angola

December 19, 2013

Mariah Carey Celebrates Angola’s Dictator, his Family, and Their Ill-Gotten Wealth

Mariah Carey poses with José Eduardo dos Santos, the 34-year dictator of Angola, his wife, and his daughter Isabel—Angola’s only billionaire

 

 

 

The Human Rights Foundation has lately been targeting celebrities who give their voice and reputation to bad causes and I think it is an excellent idea. Some celebrities do good work (think of Barbara Hendricks or Angelina Jolie), most are not interested but there is no reason why some should go out of their way to give support to dictators. There is no financial or diplomatic necessity. So, it is good to highlight Mariah Carey‘s concert on 15 December during a gala for the Angolan Red Cross, which was sponsored by Unitel (President José Eduardo dos Santos billionaire daughter Isabel owns Unitel and is also president of the Angolan Red Cross). “Mariah Carey can’t seem to get enough dictator cash, reportedly more than $1 million dollars this time. Read the rest of this entry »

Voices from the Front Line: impressive show in Dublin

December 17, 2012

On December 9, Front Line Defenders held a one-off production called Voices from the Front Line. The event, which took place at Vicar Street Theatre in Dublin, celebrated the inspirational courage of 11 human rights defenders from around the world through an evening of stories and song. Among the performers were leading actors and musicians Martin Sheen, Andrea Corr, Robert Sheehan, Amy Huberman, Paul Brady, Hazel O’Connor, Cara O’ Sullivan, Liam Ó’ Maonlaí and Finbar Furey.

The show was attended by over 800 people and streamed live on Irish broadcaster RTE’s youtube channel. Through telling the stories of human rights defenders in their own words, the evening sought to raise public awareness of who human rights defenders are and the many risks they face. The selected human rights defenders provided an illustrative sample of the thousands more that Front Line Defenders works to protect and support on a daily basis.

• To watch Voices from the Front Line:  http://youtu.be/mQ4hzaiHlLk