Posts Tagged ‘Institute for War & Peace Reporting (IWPR)’

Journalists on the ground are often the real heroes

February 18, 2021

Janine di Giovanni, Senior Fellow at Yale University, wrote on 9 February 2021 in iwpr.net/ a piece “The real heroes are the journalists on the ground, fighting to bring truth to light”

Based on her many years of reporting in North Africa and the Middle East and observing revolution after revolution she published the book: The Morning They Came for Us. Here she looks back on the Arab spring and the current situation. Journalists are indeed among the most targeted as also shown by the Digest for Human Rights Laureates recently launched by THF: there are some 450 journalists and media workers among the laureates [see:https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates].

Spotlight

Back in 2011, it was a revelation to see thousands of people marching for freedom. Each demonstration, each revolution was different but there were common themes. The main rallying cry from the crowds in Tahrir Square or Ben Ghazi or Homs or Aleppo or Tunis was always the same: we want our freedom.

It was exhilarating. Crowds were rising up against decades of dictatorships, of corruption, voicing their frustration at the lack of opportunity. What they wanted was the right to speak and write and live in accordance with their personal liberties. 

As someone who grew up first in North America, later in the UK and France, freedom of speech was a tenet of human rights I took for granted. Not so for my colleagues in Tunis who had to work underground with white-hat hackers like Anonymous to overthrow Ben Ali’s ministry of information and get their messages out. Not so for my Syrian colleagues in Aleppo or Damascus who risked everything to plead for freedom, and if they were caught, were thrown into prison and tortured or killed. Or my Egyptian friends who were tortured in prison and stripped of all rights. 

What the authorities want to say is, “It’s dangerous to speak out”. The number of the missing in Syria, the number of imprisoned in Egypt is enormous: many of them are our comrades and colleagues who tried to express and explain what was happening. These activists and journalists are what their repressive governments say is a threat to “national security”. 

Ten years on, what have we learned? Egypt under General Sisi remains even more repressed and dangerous for journalists than ever. The proportions of journalists attacked in 2020 as opposed to ten years ago is shocking:  according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, nearly 27 journalists are imprisoned, two murdered and one missing. 

This includes Aamar Abdelmonem, a freelancer, imprisoned in December 2020 on false charges, denied medication in prison (he is diabetic) and his eyeglasses. When I read about the cases of my colleagues who are incarcerated for simply telling the truth, I realize how lucky I am to live in a society where I can write what I choose. 

Always, when I think of press freedom I think of my colleague Jamal Khashoggi, murdered by henchmen under the order of Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia. Jamal’s work is not over – it lives on in the spirit of every reporter working to bring truth to light. They are not only journalists but also lawyers, human rights defenders, members of civil society. You might not hear about them – because they are working quietly but with great precision and care. They are my heroes.

As an international journalist, I am forever grateful to the journalists working under the radar in these countries – the ones who risked arrest to meet with me or speak with me or share their experiences or notes, the ones who came to my hotel in Cairo, risking everything, the ones who met me in Damascus cafes under the eyes of the mukhabarat, then saw the security guards and had to flee. The ones on the ground working when the international press cannot. 

They are our heroes, our inspiration and above all, our colleagues. We must not forget them – and we must do everything in our power to protect them. Part of the reason I am proud to be a part of the IWPR international board is to spread the word of the excellent work that is done on the ground by my colleagues. In the words of the former assistant secretary general for human rights at the United Nations, Andrew Gilmour, we are living in times when the pushback to human rights has never been greater. Which means those of us who can raise our voices louder to protect our friends on the ground must do so, with conviction and passion.

Janine di Giovanni is a Senior Fellow at Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, IWPR international board member and the author of nine books. In 2020, the American Academy of Arts and Letters gave her their highest prize for non-fiction for her lifetime body of work, which largely focuses on human rights.

https://iwpr.net/global-voices/why-local-voices-matter

Standing Up for Change: international women’s day 2018

March 8, 2018

For 2018 International Women’s DayAnthony Borden, founder and Executive Director of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting (IWPR), published the following piece: “Women’s rights are a pathway to addressing social and political challenges around the world”. It speaks for itself:

Women are pressing publicly as never before for a realignment of relations between the genders and showing courage to stand up with fresh boldness – in offices and on the streets, in the press and social media, even before global audiences at the Academy Awards. All these women take risks and deserve congratulations – and the men who stand with them. Yet on International Women’s Day, IWPR celebrates those women who are standing up in even more challenging circumstances, and indeed those women who always have.

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In some of the most dangerous environments anywhere around the world, these women provide inspiration and hope. In areas of conflict, it is so often women who protect the family, sustain a semblance of normal life, drive humanitarian services – and take a stand against war itself.

In areas of dictatorship, it is so often women who lead human rights groups, build coalitions of support for democratic values, and nurture a plural and civic vision against corrupt cartels and “business as usual”. And in areas of extreme religious influence, it is women who must find ways to take on a whole system and tradition of control – from access to education and work to health care and sexual choice. The ultimate challenge is to shift an entire mind set of human relations and the goal is in fact the liberation of both genders.

Over a quarter of a century, IWPR has been honoured to work with and to support an extraordinary line up of courageous women: from leading human rights defenders Natasha Kandic and Sonja Biserko in Belgrade to Gordana Igric and the entire women-led team of our former colleagues at the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, from top frontline war reporters Gjeraqina Tuhina (Kosovo), Galima Bukharbaeva (Uzbekistan) and the late Sahar al-Haidari (Iraq) to the remarkable Nobel Laureate and former IWPR trainee Malala Yousafzai, and continuing now to award-winning Syrian documentary filmmaker Zaina Erhaim, among many others.

It is a long and storied roll call, and well beyond coincidence. Perhaps from their exclusion from male-dominated structures, women are sometimes able to see the problems more clearly: war makers cannot be peace builders. Perhaps, with less of a stake, they have less to lose and more of a motivation for change. Perhaps, suffering so sharply, they have no other choice but to fight – peacefully – for change, whether through the media, through activism or via the ballot box.

Just last week I was incredibly moved to meet a pair of local women activists who, unable to travel any other way, drove 24 hours across the highly insecure badlands of Libya to attend an IWPR training conference in Tunis – amazing tenacity and bravery. Special mention too to our proud partnership with the Marie Colvin Journalists’ Network, commemorating the loss of a dear friend and one of the best war correspondents of a generation, and supporting continuing training and mentoring for female reporters across the Middle East.

The fact is that time has been up for a very, very long time, but a hashtag, however powerful, is not enough. For our part, IWPR is committed to continuing and expanding women’s programming, as well as “mainstreaming” its focus on gender equality within all activities. That will take work, and we pledge to keep at it. Women’s rights are absolutely human rights, and a pathway to addressing so many of the social and political challenges in difficult environments around the world.

Meantime, whether in the board room or the frontlines, we salute the women – and the men – of courage working at such risk to make change. Your courage and your efforts inspire us to recommit to our own.

https://iwpr.net/global-voices/standing-change