Posts Tagged ‘music’

Call for independent investigation into Rwandan singer Kizito Mihigo’s death

February 16, 2021

On 17 February 2021, 10 human rights NGOs addressed an Open letter to all Commonwealth Heads of Government

Excellencies,

Re: Call for independent investigation into Rwandan singer Kizito Mihigo’s death 

On the one-year anniversary of the death of popular gospel singer and peace activist, Kizito Mihigo, civil society organizations around the world are calling on the Rwandan authorities to allow an independent, impartial, and effective investigation into his death in custody. As your governments prepare to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kigali in June, we are writing to ask you to engage with your counterparts in the Rwandan government in support of this call.

On February 14, 2020, the Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) confirmed that Mihigo had been arrested close to the border, accused of attempting to illegally cross into Burundi, joining “terrorist” groups and of corruption, as well breaching the terms of his release from prison in 2018. Just days later, on February 17, 2020, Rwanda National Police announced that Mihigo had been found dead in his police cell in Kigali at 5 am that morning, in an alleged suicide. See: https://thedigestapp.trueheroesfilms.org/laureates/f8f64eb0-a9b5-40b2-a5f5-ccfb52168854/edit

However, there are reasons to doubt this version of events. In Rwanda, dissidents and critical voices are often the target of threats, judicial harassment, and arbitrary arrest. In recent years, several opposition members and journalists have gone missing or been found dead in suspicious circumstances. After he released a song in 2014 expressing compassion for victims of the genocide and of other violence, understood as a reference to the crimes committed by the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front as it took control of the country in 1994, Mihigo was threatened, detained incommunicado, and imprisoned for several years. After his release in 2018, and up to the days before his death, Mihigo informed contacts that he was being threatened to give false testimony against political opponents of the government and wanted to flee the country because he feared for his safety. The news of Mihigo’s death caused shockwaves in Rwanda and beyond. Before falling out of favour with the government in 2014, Mihigo had played a prominent role in Rwandan public life including helping to compose the new national anthem in 2001 and regularly performing at official functions. A genocide survivor himself, Mihigo’s work to promote reconciliation received equally widespread recognition; in 2011, for example, First Lady Jeannette Kagame presented him with a Celebrating Young Rwandan Achievers award in honour of his work.

On the day that Mihigo’s death was announced, and before an independent investigation could have been conducted, RIB spokesperson Marie-Michelle Umuhoza told local media that Mihigo had “strangled himself” with his bedsheets, had displayed “unusual behavior” while in custody, and had refused to speak with investigators, his lawyer and his family. On February 26, citing an autopsy report, the National Public Prosecution Authority concluded that Mihigo’s death “resulted from suicide by hanging” and said that it would not pursue criminal charges…

Mihigo is one of several detainees to have died in suspicious circumstances while in detention in Rwanda over the last several years. Independent, impartial and effective investigations capable of leading to credible prosecutions are essential to deter future violations and to promote accountability, justice, and the rule of law, and failure to conduct such investigations is a violation of the state’s obligations under the right to life. 

To ensure justice for Mihigo’s death, Rwandan authorities should allow an independent body to carry out an impartial, thorough and transparent investigation.

In the Commonwealth Charter of 2013, member states reaffirmed their core values and principles, including upholding human rights, freedom of expression, the rule of law and the role of civil society. Holding the CHOGM summit in Rwanda without addressing the absence of progress by Rwandan authorities towards accountability for human rights concerns more generally, and Mihigo’s death in particular, casts serious doubts on the Commonwealth’s human rights commitments.

For the sake of human rights in Rwanda and the integrity of the Commonwealth, we urge you to support the call on the Rwandan authorities to allow an independent, impartial, and effective investigation into Mihigo’s death in custody.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1zpA3pj8un5cRPt0VEKKJaNex9CjDPwyc/view

Patti Smith recognized with International Beethoven Prize

December 16, 2020
Musician Patti Smith attends a special screening of The Seagull at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center in New York, NY on May 10, 2018. (Photo by Stephen Smith/SIPA USA) (Newscom TagID: sipaphotoseight127601.jpg) [Photo via Newscom]

Patti Smith is honored for her social commitment “She is an activist – with her books, her songs and her life. She stands up for human rights, peace, freedom, poverty reduction, inclusion and climate protection all her life,” the message said. In addition, Smith is a declared Beethoven fan. The Beethoven Academy has taken human rights, peace, freedom, poverty reduction and inclusion as its guiding principles. The International Beethoven Prize was awarded for the sixth time. [see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/award/c05408e0-e598-11e7-a009-858a33846a9e].

For last year’s award see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/12/09/igor-levit-wins-the-2019-beethoven-prize-for-human-rights/

John Legend Receives High Note Global Prize 2020 from UN

December 11, 2020

John Legend has become the 2020 winner of the High Note human rights prize. For more on this award see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/award/748829a0-11fb-11ea-a6e6-0b8b95100eab.

For first one see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/11/28/first-high-note-global-prize-goes-to-cyndi-lauper-for-her-work-with-lgbtq-youth/

I believe in the power of music to inspire us, to connect our hearts, to give voice to feelings for which words alone won’t suffice, to wake us up out of complacency, to galvanize and fuel social movements,” the singer said upon accepting his award. “Artists have a rich tradition of activism. We have a unique opportunity to reach people where they are, beyond political divisions, borders, and silos. And it’s been my privilege to use my voice and my platform to advance the cause of equity and justice.” See: <a href="http://<iframe src="//content.jwplatform.com/players/Ge9Alkkq-zFOPDjEV.html" width="640" height="360" frameborder="0" scrolling="auto">//content.jwplatform.com/players/Ge9Alkkq-zFOPDjEV.html

Over his 20-year career, Legend has been closely involved with a variety of causes. In 2007, he started the Show Me Campaign to improve access to education, while the Bail Project has advocated for ending mass incarceration and making it easier for released prisoners to find work by removing criminal background checks from job applications. In his High Note Global Prize speech, he touched on his most recent campaign, #FreeAmerica, which is aimed at broad criminal justice reform.

He went on to highlight his most recent campaign, #FreeAmerica, which works toward criminal justice reform. “As a citizen of the United States, and of the world, I know that for far too long our most essential systems have served to perpetuate inequity and injustice,” he shared. “In order for us to create a just world those systems need to change.”

With this award we celebrate a multitude of advocates, generations of movement leaders who have put their shoulder to the wheel of progress,” he concluded. “I don’t stand here absorbing these accolades for myself. I stand here grateful for their ideas and their energy and honored that I can amplify their voices by using my platform.”

https://latestnewspost.com/news/entertainment/tv-shows/john-legend-receives-united-nations-human-rights-high-note-global-prize/

https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/john-legend-united-nations-human-rights-high-note-global-prize-1101344/

10 December Human Rights Day: Peace Through Music: A Global Event for Social Justice

December 9, 2020

With a special release on Youtube on the Playing for Change channel on Thursday, December 10th at 12 pm PST / 3 pm EST, Peace Through Music: A Global Event for Social Justice will feature artists and public figures like Aloe Blacc, Angélique Kidjo, Becky G, Brandi Carlile with Mike McCready of Pearl Jam, Carlos Santana and Cindy Blackman Santana, Gabi Melim, Gary Clark Jr., Jack Johnson, Mavis Staples, Peter Gabriel, Rhiannon Giddens, Ringo Starr, Robbie Robertson, Run The Jewels with Josh Homme, Sheila E., Skip and Cedella Marley, The War and Treaty, Yo-Yo Ma and more. Billie Eilish, Killer Mike, Megan Rapinoe and Sue Bird, Norman Lear and Sara Bareilles among others are scheduled to make special appearances.

The event, a collaboration between Playing For Change, an organization that aims to connect the world through music, and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), presented by Corning® Gorilla® Glass and co-produced by Blackbird Presents, calls for equality, the recognition of human rights and an end to racism and discrimination. 

The things in life that divide us disappear when the music plays,” says Mark Johnson, PFC Co-Founder, “and that’s something we hope you see and feel during this event.”

https://www.unfpa.org/peace-through-music

Tonight WITNESS’ virtual Gala with Peter Gabriel, Kimberley Nichole and Angela Davis

May 21, 2020

Tonight, 21 May 21, at 6:00 p.m. ET, the NGO WITNESS has its virtual Un-Gala, a celebration in defense of truth and human rights, live on Facebook and YouTube.

You’ll be able to hear the activist, author and educator Angela Davis, in conversation with media activist and WITNESS’ Senior Program Coordinator Palika Makam.  You’ll be hearing a new piece on COVID-19 created by WITNESS’ Founder Peter Gabriel  and you can listen to the incredible voice of artist Kimberly Nichole.
The Un-Gala is free of charge but donations to WITNESS are most welcome.

RSVP here

 

Filmmaker and human rights defender Shady Habash dies in Egyptian pre-trial detention

May 2, 2020
Shady Habash, 24, was a film director and cinematographer (Instagram/@ShadyHabash)

On 2 May 2020 the Middle East Eye reported that Egyptian film director and photographer Shady Habash reportedly passed away in Tora prison in the capital Cairo on Friday, according to human rights organisations.

Continuing Egypt’s revolution from exile: Ramy Essam and Ganzeer

[Habash and his colleague Mustafa Gamal were arrested following the release of Balaha, a song that indirectly poked fun at Sisi, the former defence minister who came to power after a military coup ousted president Mohamed Morsi in 2013. Essam, the singer who performed Balaha, is currently in exile in Sweden. The author of the song, Galal el-Beheiry, is also in jail.  “Balaha” is a derogatory nickname for Sisi, in reference to a character from a classic Egyptian movie known for being a compulsive liar. A statement by Essam after Habash’s arrest said that the director “doesn’t have anything to do with the content and message of the song”. Charges brought against Habash and Gamal include membership of a “terrorist group,” spreading false news, abuse of social media networks, blasphemy, contempt of religion and insulting the military. They have both been in pre-trial detention pending investigations since their arrests.]

Human Rights Watch has estimated that more than 60,000 political prisoners have been languishing in Egyptian jails since Sisi became president in 2014.  The former army general has routinely jailed critics, including secular and Muslim Brotherhood politicians, journalists, and human rights defenders. Hundreds have died in custody through medical negligence or other poor detention conditions.

On 5 May Egypt’s public prosecutor said that alcohol poisoning caused the death in jail of this young video maker after he drank liquid sanitiser he had mistaken for water.  https://news.yahoo.com/egyptian-video-maker-died-alcohol-poisoning-jail-prosecutor-015419633.html

For some older posts on Egypt, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/egypt/

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

Igor Levit wins the 2019 Beethoven Prize for human rights

December 9, 2019

The International Beethoven Prize is awarded to artists who place themselves in the service of human rights, peace, freedom, combating poverty and inclusion [see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/beethoven-prize-for-human-rights]. Igor Levit, 32, is hailed by critics and audiences as one of the finest pianists today, a master not only at the keyboard but also at his smartphone. His 32,000 Twitter followers look forward to his almost daily comments on social and political issues. “Racism, anti-Semitism, anti-feminism and hostility to human beings are dangerous, often life-threatening and deplorable attitudes. They do not deserve to be jazzed up to the status of legitimate opinions,” the pianist tweeted for instance in November.

Levit’s opinions have attracted much attention beyond the concert hall. At a time when only few artists take a clear political stand, such positioning runs the risk of alienating part of the public or provoking storms of online hostility. In this sense, Levit stands out. His media presence extends to television talk shows; for example, “Words, rage, contradiction — prevent hate, tolerate opinions?” was the topic of a recent TV discussion he was invited to take part in….At the national convention of Germany’s Greens Party, Igor Levit played Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” the official anthem of the European Union. In 2018, he returned his Echo Klassik out of protest against the Echo prize awarded to rappers Kollegah and Farid Bang, whose texts include anti-Semitic and misogynous content. But before or during concert performances, Levit will make a statement “only if absolutely necessary and if I feel an absolute emotional urgency to do so.

Levit has performed at the #Unteilbar demonstration in Berlin on behalf of social inclusion, as well as at the Fridays for Future strikes — and wears a button of the youth movement protesting climate change at concert appearances. He dedicated his recent Opus Klassik award to the victims of a terror attack in the city of Halle. In a recent interview with the newsweekly Die Zeit, Levit said, “I don’t just want to be the man striking the keys.” Critics even see a statement in his choice of repertory.

For last year’s award, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/10/15/venezuelan-pianist-gabriela-montero-wins-the-2018-beethoven-prize/

First High Note Global Prize goes to Cyndi Lauper for her work with LGBTQ youth

November 28, 2019
Cyndi Lauper
Cyndi Lauper will receive the inaugural High Note Global Prize from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the High Note Global Initiative.

For her decades of activism with LGBTQ youth, Cyndi Lauper will be awarded the inaugural High Note Global Prize presented by the United Nations Human Rights and the High Note Global Initiative at her annual Home for the Holidays concert December 10, according to Rolling Stone. For more on this award: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/high-note-global-prize

The High Note Global Initiative stated: “In 2008, Lauper co-founded True Colors United after learning that while 10% of American youth identify themselves as LGBTQ, up to 40% of American youth experiencing homelessness do so. The organization works to prevent and end youth homelessness, focusing on the unique experiences of LGBTQ youth. In 2008, Cyndi Lauper co-founded True Colors United, a nonprofit organization that implements innovative solutions to youth homelessness that focus on the unique experiences of LGBTQ young people, who make up to 40% of the youth homelessness population in America.

The 2019 High Note Global Prize will be presented during the High Note Honors segment of Cyndi Lauper & Friends: Home for the Holidays at the Novo Theater at LA Live on December 10th. The award will be presented to Lauper by Kesha during the concert in Los Angeles. In 2008, Lauper cofounded True Colors United (named for her smash hit song about celebrating otherness), which “implements innovative solutions to youth homelessness that focus on the unique experiences of LGBTQ young people,” according to its website.  In addition to Kesha, additional celebrities supporting Cyndi at the Novo Theater on UN Human Rights Day include, Billy Porter, Brandi Carlile, Belinda Carlisle, King Princess, Charlie Musselwhite, Henry Rollins, Perry Farrell with Etty Lau Farrell, Justin Tranter, K. Flay, Emily Estefan, Shawn Wasabi, comics Carol Leifer and Lily Tomlin, U.K. comedian Gina Yashere, Margaret Cho, and Carson Kressley. Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish, Mariah Carey, Dolly Parton, Lady Gaga, Kelly Clarkson, Dua Lipa, Kacey Musgraves, RuPaul, and Tegan and Sara are among the artists who have donated items and experiences for a charity auction with 100% proceeds supporting True Colors.

The prize was created by David Clark, founder of the High Note Global Initiative, which celebrates artists whose work intersects with human rights issues. The award was announced in 2017: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/12/08/new-human-rights-award-music-to-our-ears/

Cyndi Lauper to Be Honored with Inaugural UN Human Rights Award for Work Helping LGBTQ Youth

https://www.advocate.com/music/2019/11/26/cyndi-lauper-awarded-1st-human-rights-prize-work-lgbtq-youth

Music to our ears: songs for human rights

November 5, 2019

The Speak Up, Sing Out Music Contest 2020 is on. In collaboration with the GRAMMY Museum, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights invites students to write and produce original songs that speak out against human rights abuses. The format is open to any genre of music. The Grand Prize winning songwriter will participate in a GRAMMY-related event. ENTRY DEADLINE: APRIL 20, 2020.

Getting your voice heard can really change your community, society, more than you could ever think.” says the 2019 Speak Up, Sing Out contest winner Tess Lira shares the inspiration behind her empowering song “Solid Gold” and encourages songwriters to trust their voices.

For some of my ealrier posts on music and human rights, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/music/

https://mailchi.mp/rfkhumanrights/calling-all-student-filmmakers-854437?e=99673fdc45