Posts Tagged ‘CNN’

Libyan human rights defender Hanan al-Barassi gunned down in Benghazi

November 12, 2020

International media (here CNN) reported on 11 November 2020 on the killing of prominent Libyan lawyer and women’s rights activist Hanan al-Barassi, who was gunned down by armed men Tuesday in the eastern city of Benghazi. Her killing in Benghazi, which falls under the control of the Libyan National Army (LNA), came just a day after she shared comments on social media criticizing the son of renegade military general and LNA leader Khalifa Haftar. “The assassination of human rights defenders and opinion-holders and the silencing of voices is a heinous crime and a disgraceful form of tyranny and a desperate attempt to destroy hope for the establishment of a civil and democratic state,” Libya’s Interior Minister, Fathi Bashagha, tweeted Tuesday.

According to the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), al-Barassi — whom the mission describes as a “vocal critic of corruption, abuse of power and human rights violations” — was shot “in broad daylight” by unidentified armed men. “Her tragic death illustrates the threats faced by Libyan women as they dare to speak out,” UNSMIL added. In videos posted publicly on her Facebook page, al-Barassi expressed criticism of figures loyal to the LNA. In a livestream shared on Monday, just a day before her killing, al-Barassi said she would not be silenced by threats. “I won’t surrender, only with bullets will I ever surrender — if I die, so be it. Only in death will I be silenced. Tomorrow I will have several surprises [to share], several surprises,” she told viewers. The LNA has not yet responded to a CNN request for comment on al-Barassi’s death.

Elham Saudi, the director of Lawyers for Justice in Libya, an organization which seeks to defend and promote human rights in the conflict-ridden country, called the attack an “appalling and painful reminder of the reality on the ground” for women in Libya. “With no accountability, violators will continue to get away with literal murder in broad daylight,” she added.Al-Barassi’s killing follows a series of attacks against those critical of forces aligned to the LNA.

In 2019, one of Libya’s most prominent female politicians and a vocal critic of Haftar, Seham Sergewa, was abducted from her home in Benghazi by a militia group loyal to the LNA; while an investigation was launched into her abduction, she has yet to be found. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/06/28/two-years-after-murder-of-salwa-bugaighis-in-libya-still-no-investigation/]

“The killing of an outspoken lawyer in broad daylight in Benghazi will send chills through activists across the region,” said Hanan Salah, senior Libya researcher at Human Rights Watch. “This brutal killing smacks of a cold-blooded execution. The only way to end this cycle of violence is if authorities hold criminals to account for these terrible acts.

https://edition.cnn.com/2020/11/11/africa/libya-lawyer-rights-activist-killed-intl/index.html

https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/11/11/libya-outspoken-benghazi-lawyer-murdered

Turns out State Department did lie about revoking award to Finnish journalist

September 29, 2020

Back in March 2019 I reported on the US State Department revoking an award to a Finnish journalist [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/12/one-journalist-who-did-not-get-the-women-of-courage-award-but-almost/], but saying it was done in error. Now the State Department’s Office of Inspector General has established that it was done – as suspected already – because of the journalist had posted critically on President Donald Trump.

Finnish journalist speaks out after Trump administration cancels 'Courage' award

After a Foreign Policy report suggested that the State Department may have retaliated against her because of her criticism Trump on social media, then-State Department deputy spokesperson Robert Palladino asserted it was a miscommunication and that she had been “incorrectly notified” of her award. He called it a “regrettable error,” saying Aro actually “had not” been a finalist. However, the 16-page OIG report found that Aro’s social media posts were the only reason her award was rescinded. “Indeed, every person OIG interviewed in connection with this matter acknowledged that had (the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues) not highlighted her social media posts as problematic, Ms. Aro would have received the IWOC Award,” it states. Asked about the findings of the report, Aro told CNN Friday, “In my heart I feel like an international woman of courage. That the Trump administration can’t take away from me.” The release of the report comes more than a year after a group of Democratic senators on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee requested an OIG probe into the circumstances of Aro’s award being revoked. Sen. Bob Menendez, the ranking member on the committee, said in a statement Friday that the “State Department owes Ms. Aro an apology.”
..
Moreover, the report found that the State Department had provided false information to the press and Congress to explain why the award had been rescinded. Officials from the department’s Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs “told OIG that they disagreed with the language in the talking points and press statements suggesting that Ms. Aro was incorrectly notified and was not an awardee,” the report says. In a briefing with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in March 2019, the acting director of the Office of Global Women’s Issues said “not really” when asked if Aro’s social media posts played a role in the department’s decision and the ambassador claimed he was not “worried” about Aro’s social media posts. The “Department’s statements during this briefing do not align with the internal discussions that occurred at the time the decision was made to rescind Ms. Aro’s selection. OIG found no documentary evidence to corroborate the Department’s claims during the briefing with congressional staff,” the report states. “Also, Department officials from (the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues), (the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs), and Embassy Helsinki all told OIG that, had Ms. Aro’s social media content not come to light, she would have received the award.”

New documents raise questions over State Dept. move to rescind honor for Trump critic

Menendez said in his statement Friday that the report “confirmed that Secretary Pompeo’s Department misled the public and Congress about why it rescinded Ms. Aro’s award, covering up that her social media posts were the reason the award was withdrawn. The Trump administration also drafted talking points that falsely stated Ms. Aro had never been selected as a recipient.” “Secretary Pompeo should have honored a courageous journalist willing to stand up to Kremlin propaganda. Instead, his department sought to stifle dissent to avoid upsetting a President who, day after day, tries to take pages out of Putin’s playbook,” the New Jersey Democrat said.

Satire as a weapon: Malaysian cartoonists showed the way

April 4, 2019

Having blogged about cartoonists as human rights defenders (se e.g.https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/05/19/urgent-award-winning-cartoonist-zunar-threats-malaysia-support/), it is a pleasure to refer to a long piece in CNN  written by James Griffiths on 29th March 2019: “The cartoonists who helped take down a Malaysian prime minister”. The story is enriched by many of the cartoons that landed the cartoonists in trouble.
For Malaysians, the figure pictured (below) is instantly recognizable as Rosmah Mansor, wife of disgraced former Prime Minister Najib Razak and — according to prosecutors in the US and Malaysia — a modern day Imelda Marcos who accrued luxury goods worth millions of dollars using money embezzled from the state investment fund, 1MDB.
A cartoon of former Malaysian first lady Rosmah Mansor by Zunar is seen in a gallery in Kuala Lumpur.

A cartoon of former Malaysian first lady Rosmah Mansor by Zunar is seen in a gallery in Kuala Lumpur. Credit: James Griffiths/CNN
Zunar‘s work welcomes visitors to “Democracy in Action,” a recent exhibition that would have been impossible to stage only a year ago.
Malaysian cartoonist Zulkifli Anwar Ulhaque, popularly known as Zunar, poses with handcuffs prior to a book-launch event in Kuala Lumpur on February 14, 2015.
Malaysian cartoonist Zunar, poses with handcuffs prior to a book-launch event in Kuala Lumpur on February 14, 2015. Credit: MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
..Just last year, it seemed almost certain that Zunar would end up in prison. A number of his books had been banned, and while his work was still widely shared online, the artist faced multiple charges of sedition and committing acts deemed “detrimental to parliamentary democracy.” Unknown assailants attacked him at a gallery show, police seized his works and he was banned from leaving the country. Then, in a shock election result, a coalition of opposition parties turfed Najib out of office, promising to clamp down on corruption and reverse the country’s turn toward authoritarianism. Now Zunar is watching as his the political figures who were once his nemeses and muses face decades behind bars themselves — in part because artists like him helped bring attention to their alleged corruption and disdain for the rule of law. “The medium of cartooning is (a) very powerful medium,” Zunar told CNN at his small studio in a Kuala Lumpur suburb. “Everywhere, in any country you go, (cartoonists) get killed. Cartoonists, get arrested, put in jail everywhere because of the medium.
Fellow artist Fahmi Reza, who also faced prosecution under Najib, said this is partly because of cartoons’ unique ability to poke fun at those in power. “Using satire and humor is effective because it breaks the fear barrier,” he said in a phone interview. “People had always been afraid to speak out. The culture of fear is always there; the culture of self-censorship is always there. That’s where satire and humor can be the most effective tool, it makes people less afraid.
In June 2016, Fahmi Reza was charged with two counts of violating section 233(1) of the Communications and Multimedia Act, which forbids disseminating online content deemed to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass others. Fahmi had depicted Najib as a clown with big red lips and arched, thick eyebrows. The image quickly caught on with Malaysians sick of the widespread allegations of corruption, and it soon became a common sight at anti-government protests.
A caricature of Malaysian Prime Minister by artist Fahmi Reza. The artwork almost landed Fahmi in prison.
A caricature of Malaysian Prime Minister by artist Fahmi Reza. The artwork almost landed Fahmi in prison. Credit: MOHD RASFAN/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Like Zunar, Fahmi had a record of trouble with the authorities. ….. “One sign that whatever you’re doing is effective is when the authorities and people in power react,” he added. “If they ignore it, then there’s no impact. That’s how the whole clown thing became a symbol of protest — because of the overreaction by the authorities.
Both cartoonists’ arrests made international headlines, helping to highlight Najib’s growing authoritarianism to the outside world. Protesters also delighted in using the caricatures of Najib and Rosmah on posters and placards after it was revealed how much the artists had irritated them. As Malaysia’s opposition grew ever more determined to oust Najib — with many observers warning that 2016’s general election might be their last chance to do so — the government passed new legislation to control what people could say about it.
Activists hold up caricatures of Najib Razak and Rosmah Mansor (center). Political art became a key tool of protest in Malaysia during Najib's rule.

Activists hold up caricatures of Najib Razak and Rosmah Mansor (center). Political art became a key tool of protest in Malaysia during Najib’s rule. Credit: MOHD RASFAN/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
In early 2018, it introduced a new law to crack down on “fake news” that critics said was so broadly defined that it could easily be used to shut down and criminalize criticism of Najib.
Eventually however, the wave of dissent was too great for Najib to overcome. ….Since Najib’s downfall, charges against Zunar and Fahmi have been dropped, though the latter is still fighting to have an earlier conviction overturned. Both men said that, while they felt considerably freer under the new government, true reform has yet to be delivered.
For some other posts on cartoons, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/cartoons/

Sergio Vieira de Mello Debate 2015 on 12 March in Geneva

February 12, 2015

Barbara Hendricks at MEA ceremony 2003 with late Sergio Vieira de Mello and Alirio Uribe Munoz

Barbara Hendricks at MEA ceremony 2003 with late Sergio Vieira de Mello and Alirio Uribe Munoz

On 12 March 2015 will take place the Annual Sergio Vieira de Mello Debate in the Palais des Nations, Assembly Hall, Geneva. Starts at 18h30.

Speakers are the two High Commissioners, Zeid Raad al Hussein and Antonio Guterres, as well as Christiane Amanpour of CNN.

for more info, see: Annual debate 2015 – Save the date!.

Last year the speaker was Ramos Horta: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/05/02/jose-ramos-horta-delivers-2014-sergio-vieira-de-mello-lecture/

Rihanna adds star power to campaign for gay rights in Russia

February 18, 2014

Last week I blogged about the mixed record of star power (https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/02/10/star-power-and-human-rights-a-difficult-but-doable-mix/) and it is nice to add a positive example: Rihanna.
Rihanna has 34 million followers on Twitter.
On 16 February 2014 Faith Karimi and Neda Farshbaf wrote for CNN how pop star Rihanna is adding major star power to the campaign for gay rights in Russia. The singer behind hits such as “Disturbia” and “SOS” tweeted a photo of herself wearing a hat emblazoned with P6, short for Principle 6. This campaign speaks out against Russia’s anti-gay propaganda law as the nation hosts the Winter Olympics. And Rihanna has 34 million followers on Twitter! The photo links to her Instagram account, which has about 12 million followers. In subsequent tweets, she posted links to other articles highlighting the issue.

Rihanna adds star power to P6 campaign for gay rights in Russia – CNN.com.