Posts Tagged ‘Pakistan’

Multimedia campaigns can help prevent gender-based violence in Pakistan

November 1, 2019

The report below was published in Dawn. It shows that thinking about multimedia tools in the struggle against gender-based violence is alive and well at the ground level where it matters most:

Speakers at the Media Conference in Peshawar on Thursday 17 October 2019 called for the resolution of the issues of media persons to enable them to effectively play their role as human rights defenders. The event titled ‘media, gender and right to service’ highlighted the significance of different mediums of media and stressed the need for their use for the eradication of sexual and gender-based violence and change in the people’s attitudes towards social issues through better awareness.

It was organised by Blue Veins in collaboration with the Peshawar Press Club and Right to Public Service Commission. Provincial anti-harassment ombudsperson Rukhshanda Naz said gender-based violence was one of the most prevalent human rights abuses. She said journalists could play a fundamental role in highlighting the voice of the people, whose rights were violated. Ms Naz said media could help highlight interventions and change attitudes, practices and behaviours, which drove violence against women.

Chief Commissioner of the Right to Public Services Commission Mohammad Mushtaq Jadoon said the media was playing the role of an ‘agenda setter’, which could easily disseminate information and influence public opinion. He said the use of modern media tactics could promote human rights.

Programme coordinator of Blue Veins Qamar Naseem said media was one of the pillars of power to influence public attitudes and social structure. He said the government and non-government service providers were struggling to improve response services to gender-based violence, so they needed to become skilled at engaging journalists in their coordinated efforts as an integral part of advocacy.

Journalists Aqeel Yousafzai and Waseem Ahmad called for the adoption of multimedia engagement approach. They said an intensive multimedia campaign would help reduce and prevent gender-based violence and ensure that the survivors have safe and improved access to services.

Chairman of the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Peshawar, Dr Faizullah Jan said to improve the role of media towards better understanding of gender roles, social attitudes and root causes of gender-based violence, there was a need for ensuring adequate capacity development and sensitisation for effective media reporting on gender-based violence issues.

General secretary of Khyber Union of Journalists Mohammad Naeem said such events could suggested actions to policymakers and the media for advocating a stronger legal and regulatory environment to support voluntary, equitable and rights-based programmes. The conference also contributed into the signing of a statement by media representatives promising commitment to addressing sexual and gender-based violence in collaboration with provincial and national stakeholders.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1511475

The Asma Jahangir legacy

October 22, 2019

Asma Jahangir is rightly considered one of the foremost human rights defenders of our time [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/02/11/asma-jahangir-one-of-the-worlds-most-outstanding-human-rights-defenders-dies-at-age-66/]. So, the two-day ‘Asma Jahangir Conference 2019Roadmap for Human Rights’ which concluded in Lahore, Pakistan on 20 October 2019 is fully justified. The News carries a long report on the meeting in which some 120 jurists, politicians, human rights defenders and media people acted as panellists from Pakistan, England, America, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Ireland, Sweden and Afghanistan. Thousands of students, attended the sessions. They all resolved to carry forward the legacy of Asma Jahangir, who fought relentlessly against dictatorial forces and always sought due process of law, equality for women and protection of minorities in the country.

(Former) Politicians dominated the panels but other speakers at the sessions paid tribute to Asma Jahangir and appreciated her commitment to human rights with a resolve to uphold the rule of law and struggle for women’s rights. Munaza Hassan spoke of women’s right to inheritance. Daughter of Asma Jahangir and journalist Munizae Jahangir, who conducted the session, said: “It is a rare moment when all political parties are seen on the same platform.” She said that politicians conveniently forget to protect fundamental rights and right to expression when in they assume power. She said: “We are convinced that without freedom of the media, the rule of law and guarantees of security to human rights defenders, neither democracy nor justice, is possible. The main challenge to development of Pakistan and the rights of its citizens is a national security state. Until the national security is subservient, no other initiative in economy, health, education and rule of law can find success.

The day began with a short film on Asma Jahangir receiving the Right Livelihood Award, produced by True Heroes Films, where she spoke of growing expectations of citizens as far as what the governments should deliver. And governments falling ever further behind, internationally this gap of creative impulses of society on one side and governments dragging their feet on the other, has been the key engine of human rights challenges. Despite threats to her life, she spoke of never leaving Pakistan as it is a place where she has received most love and affection.

As a continuation of the discussion on ‘Art inspires politics’, Munizae Jahangir conducted a panel discussion on ‘How women can build bridges for peace in South Asia’. Former foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar, Afghan politician Fawzia Koofi, human rights lawyer from Sri Lanka Bhavani Fonseka, Swedish Ambassador Ingrid Johansson and former Afghan ambassador to Pakistan Omar Zakhilwal opined that peace in South Asia was a prerequisite to securing women’s fundamental rights and the resources should be directed towards socio-economic areas rather than the military. Human Rights Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, H. E. Dr Bahia Tahzib-Lie, Award-winning novelist Mohammad Hanif, Christian Caryl of the Washington Post, Wusat Ullah Khan, Ms Aisha Sarwari and Iqbal Khattak participated in the discussion on the role of social media.

Dr Bahia talked about the centrality of human rights in a thriving democratic society, and also the role of her government in supporting human rights initiatives all-over the world, including Pakistan. Aisha Sarwari talked about how women are systematically excluded from law-making process and, therefore, law-making concerning social media. She said it is essential for the social and economic development of all countries for women to be able to use the media as disruptive technology and end permission culture. Wusat Ullah Khan mentioned that the social media gives space to freedom, but also makes people extremely vulnerable. He said freedom of speech is part of a bouquet – you cannot talk about freedom of speech without talking about right to life and education and freedom of religion.

Iqbal Khattak, country representative of Reporters without Borders (RSF), spoke about the need for digital safety training and how one should protect oneself by disengaging with trolls. He particularly highlighted threats, accusations of blasphemy as threats that should be taken very seriously. He strongly encouraged use of PICA laws for individuals to seek online protection. He also highlighted Pakistan’s considerable investment in controlling social media spaces and vigilance on part of civil society. The Government of Pakistan should take social media as fundamental right.

On fighting the culture of shame and silence, woman rights activist Uzma Noorani, British professor of human rights Ms Siobhan Mullally, provincial Ombudsperson Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Rukshanda Naz, Pakistan People’s Party leader Nafisa Shah, former chairperson of the Punjab Commission on the Status of Women Fouzia Viqar said that there should be universality of rights, for all excluded communities including women and marginalised remote communities.

..

On ‘Silencing civil society’, Ms Fareeda Shahid moderated the session of Knut Ostby, United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Pakistan. Ms Zohra Yusuf, human rights activist and council member of HRCP, Mohammad Tehsin, convener of Pakistan Civil Society National Forum, law expert Asad Jamal said registered civil society organisations should be allowed to function, 2013 policy of banning CSOs should be challenged. Mass communication needed to change narratives.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/544102-thousands-resolve-to-carry-forward-asma-jahangir-legacy

Carter Centre holds 2019 Human Rights Defenders Forum as from 12 October

October 7, 2019

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter speaks at the 2018 Human Rights Defenders Forum in Atlanta, GA, the theme of which was “Restoring Faith in Freedom.”

“Building Solidarity toward Equality for All” Dozens of activists, peacemakers, and community leaders from 28 countries will come together from 12-15 October for the Carter Center’s 12th Human Rights Defenders Forum. Three sessions, including a 15-minute Q&A with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, will be livestreamed on Tuesday, 15 October. Session topics include global protection for human rights defenders, challenges for women defenders and peacemakers, and the importance of mutually supporting civil, economic, political, and social rights.

The forum this year include:

  • Hafida Benchehida, an Algerian senator since 2013 and a founding member of both the Algerian and Arab women parliamentarian networks. She is also a member of Mediterranean Women Mediators and a specialist in women’s roles in peace.
  • Mohna Ansari, a journalist-turned-attorney and a member of Nepal’s Human Rights Commission. Much of her work involves women’s rights, representation, and protection.
  • Ijam Alaz Augustine, minister for human rights and minorities affairs in Pakistan’s Lahore province, whose political career has been devoted to protecting the rights of religious minorities.
  • Fernando Carrillo Flórez, a former ambassador, minister of justice, and minister of the interior from Colombia who has published more than 14 books and 80 articles on democracy, governance, and reform of justice.
  • Maati Munjib, a journalist, professor, and president of Freedom Now, an organization devoted to protecting journalists and freedom of expression in Morocco. Because of his activism and writings, he faces a possible five years in prison. Amnesty International and other human rights groups have called for charges against him to be dropped.

Tuesday, October 15 webcast:
11:30 a.m. – 12:45 p.m.  Remarks by President Carter  Summary of the previous days’ workshops
Testimonies by human rights defenders and moderated discussion
2:15 ̶ 3:15 p.m. Discussion: “How Do We Build True Solidarity in the Struggle for Equality?”
3:50 ̶ 5 p.m.  Continued: Moderated discussion  Livestream Q&A with President Carter (4:35 to 4:50 p.m.)

During the webcast: Twitter @CarterCenter with hashtag #BuildingSolidarity.

CPJ’s 2019 Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award to Pakistani journalist Zaffar Abbas

July 19, 2019

The Committee to Protect Journalists’ (CPJ) 2019 Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award recognizing extraordinary and sustained achievement in the cause of press freedom will be presented to Zaffar Abbas, editor of Pakistan’s daily newspaper Dawn. Abbas, who has decades of experience as a reporter in Pakistan, has led Dawn since 2010. Under his leadership, Dawn and its reporters frequently have come under government pressure. This is the second Ifill award which replaces the Burton Benjamin Memorial Award. For more on this and other awards for journalists: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/gwen-ifill-press-freedom-award

“Zaffar Abbas is the embodiment of journalistic courage, which is why the board is so pleased to honor him with the Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award,” said Kathleen Carroll, chair of the CPJ board. “Every day he fights to deliver facts to Dawn’s readers in the face of pressure, obstacles, and blockades from the institutions in Pakistan that would much prefer to go about their business without scrutiny from the press or the public.

https://cpj.org/2019/07/cpj-announces-2019-international-press-freedom-awa.php

Pakistan: a bad country for religious tolerance

March 17, 2019

Nothing new but it being a Sunday here in Crete, where lots of people go to church, one is struck by the continuing religious intolerance in certain parts of the world. Here two short items  relating to Pakistan, both from March 2019:
reports that on 6 March 2019 human rights defender Afzal Kohistani was shot dead by unidentified gunmen in Gami Ada, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province. Afzal Kohistani was a human rights defender who had been campaigning against “honour killings”, or choar, in the Kohistan region of Pakistan. He had been the central figure seeking justice for the killing of five young women and three young men in 2012 and 2013.

The 2012 and 2013 “honour killings” were linked to a video, which went viral after it appeared online in 2012. It showed five young women singing and clapping, while two young men performed a traditional dance during a local wedding in Palas, a remote area in Kohistan. The mixing of genders is considered a serious violation of tribal norms in Kohistan and the young people were killed as a result of the “dishonour” they had brought on their families and community…..Prior to his death, Afzal Kohistani had received numerous death threats for seeking to bring the perpetrators of the Kohistan killings to justice. The human rights defender and his family were forced to leave their home in 2012 and had been in hiding for the past seven years. A few days prior to being killed, the human rights defender had written to the Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) in Hazara seeking police protection but his request never received a response. The Supreme Court’s orders for the provincial government to provide the human rights defender with protection were also not heeded. (for more detail see the link below).[ One of my first posts in 2013 concerned https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/09/28/pakistan-and-rights-of-women-unbearable/]

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A story in the Business Standard of 17 March refers to the a protest rally in Geneva by living in parts of Europe  objecting to “Islamists misusing blasphemy law to harass Christians in Pakistan”. The protesters walked from Palais Wilson, to ‘Broken Chair’ in front of the UN, during the 40th session of the

They demanded that the government must abolish the ‘dangerous’ law misused by the state and non-state actors to target the minorities. Frank John, of Drumchapel Asian Forum in Glasgow, said: “We are unhappy with the functioning of the government in because the mindset of ‘maulvis’ (Islamic hardliners) towards Christians is immoral. Every day, atrocities are being committed against our children, especially girls, which is not acceptable. Our girls are being kidnapped by misusing PPC 295C and they are converted into ” He added: “.. If we have an altercation with any person, they put us under PPC 295C. This is a and needs to be abolished.”

Dr Mario Silva, Executive of for Rights and Security said: “Pakistan systematically discriminates against minorities. Christians are particularly targetted by the law. Christian persecution is a real threat to democracy and it’s a real threat to human rights. It’s something the community needs to take a look at. He added, “The state has a responsibility to protect its minorities rather destroying them. They have to go against the perpetrators of crimes against Christians. There are attacks on Christians, suicide bombings are taking place and the government is doing nothing to investigate the persecution of Christians in the country.” Criticising the law, he said: “Blasphemy law should in fact never be a part of any democratic system of government because blasphemy law is meant to target minorities…..” [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/12/24/pussy-riot-freed-in-russia-but-the-bigger-issue-is-blasphemy-laws-everywhere/]

Christians make up less than two per cent of the population in Pakistan. Their numbers are decreasing as many of them are migrating to other countries for their safety.

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/human-rights-defender-afzal-kohistani-shot-dead-seeking-justice-“honour-killings”
https://www.business-standard.com/article/news-ani/islamists-misusing-blasphemy-law-to-harass-christians-in-pakistan-activists-119031700034_1.html

Sketching for freedom of expression at the Frankfurter book fair

January 8, 2019

 Human rights defenders receive their 2018 UN prizes

December 20, 2018

Secretary-General António Guterres (2nd left) and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet (left) with winners of the UN Prize in the Field of Human Rights at the General Assembly’s commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. UN Photo/Evan Schneider

The “clear and profound” guidelines enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “have made it the world’s most widely translated document”, the UN Secretary-General told the General Assembly on Tuesday at an event to commemorate the Declaration’s 70th Anniversary, marked 10 December.

Every five years, The United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights is awarded to organizations and individuals which embody excellent activism in defending human rights. [see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/united-nations-prizes-in-the-field-of-human-rights]

The 2018 winners are:

  • Rebeca Gyumi of Tanzania, for her work with women and girls. She lead a campaign that prompted the repeal of a Tanzanian law in 2016, which once permitted girls as young as 14 to be married off.
  • Asma Jahangir of Pakistan, a human rights lawyer – whose daughter, Munizae, received the award on her behalf. Mrs. Jahangir, who passed away in February of this year, fought against religious extremism and for the rights of oppressed minorities.
  • Joênia Wapixana (known also as Joenia Batista de Carvalho) of Brazil, who advocates on behalf of indigenous communities.
  • Front-Line Defenders, an Irish organization which works on the protection of human rights defenders.

All were announced on 25 October [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/10/26/laureates-of-10th-edition-of-un-human-rights-prizes-just-announced/], and celebrated at the ceremonial event on 18 December.

The SG emphasized that “their work, and that of other human rights defenders around the world, is essential for our collective efforts to sustain peace and ensure inclusive sustainable development and respect for human rights for all.”

https://news.un.org/en/story/2018/12/1028901

Laureates of 10th Edition of UN Human Rights Prizes just announced

October 26, 2018

On Friday 26 October 2018 the President of the UN General Assembly announced – in a rather summary and informal tweet:

“Today I announced the 2018 winners of the Human Rights Prize. I am proud to recognise the contributions of individuals & organizations that promote & protect human rights Joênia Wapichana Your work is an inspiration to us all “.

This is the tenth time that these awards were since the prize was established in 1968, coinciding this year with the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 20th anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. For more on this award: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/united-nations-prizes-in-the-field-of-human-rights

It is probably for that reason that one of the winners is the outstanding Ireland based NGO Front Line Defenders (regularly quoted in the blog, see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/front-line-ngo/). The Director Andrew Anderson promptly replies with: “Profoundly honoured that @FrontLineHRD has been named as one of 4 winners of the UN Human Rights Prize. We dedicate this to the courageous & dedicated human rights defenders we work to support.

Three other winners of the prize are

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https://www.newstalk.com/Irish-organisation-wins-United-Nations-Human-Rights-Prize

https://www.girlsnotbrides.org/high-court-tanzania-child-marriage/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joênia_Wapixana

China, Russia and Pakistan in UN fail at attempt to muzzle human rights defenders (for now)

July 7, 2018

On 6 July 2018 Stephanie Nebehay reported for Reuters that China, Russia and Pakistan lost their bid on Friday to weaken a U.N. resolution upholding the crucial rule of human rights defenders. The United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a resolution calling on all states to protect civil society groups from threats and intimidation, and prosecute reprisals against them. Chile presented the resolution text on behalf of more than 50 countries on the final day of a three-week session. Amendments proposed by China, Pakistan and Russia – declaring that civil society groups must respect “the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states” and that their funding must be “legal and transparent” – were soundly defeated. So, in spite of increasing retaliation against human right defenders and pressure on civil society in many countries [see recently: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/06/08/ishr-new-report-on-reprisals-and-restrictions-against-ngo-participation-in-the-un/ ], the UN is still able to resist some of the more blatant attempt to silence critics.

China and Russia are often the least tolerant of civil society at home. They are now seeking to introduce similar restrictions at the international level,” John Fisher of Human Rights Watch told Reuters. Their attempts to place national sovereignty above international human rights law “would turn guarantees of peaceful assembly and association on their heads”.

“These amendments were a swing and a miss for China and its allies on the Council,” Sarah Brooks of the International Service for Human Rights told Reuters, using an American baseball term. “Their efforts to limit civil society’s independence and shut down civil society voices were rebuffed by a strong message – from member states across the globe – about the importance of keeping defenders’ voices at the table”.

[At the current session, China tried unsuccessfully to block the accreditation of Uighur activist Dolkun Isa, U.N. sources said. China’s delegation publicly challenged activists speaking on behalf of Uighur and Tibetan ethnic minorities. Council president Vojislav Suc, Slovenia’s ambassador, said allegations of intimidation and reprisals had emerged during the session and urged “all necessary measures” to prevent such acts.]

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-un-rights/china-russia-fail-to-curb-activists-role-at-u-n-rights-forum-campaigners-idUSKBN1JW2EM

Human rights defenders in Pakistan in targeted campaign of digital attacks

May 17, 2018

Activists in Pakistan are under threat from a targeted campaign of digital attacks, which has seen social media accounts hacked and computers and mobile phones infected with spyware, a four-month investigation by Amnesty International reveals.

In a report titled ‘Human Rights Under Surveillance: Digital Threats against Human Rights Defenders in Pakistan’, released on Tuesday, 15 May 2018, Amnesty reveals how attackers are using fake online identities and social media profiles to ensnare Pakistani human rights defenders online and mark them out for surveillance and cyber crime.

We uncovered an elaborate network of attackers who are using sophisticated and sinister methods to target human rights activists. Attackers use cleverly designed fake profiles to lure activists and then attack their electronic devices with spyware, exposing them to surveillance and fraud and even compromising their physical safety, Sherif Elsayed-Ali, Director of Global Issues at Amnesty International, said. “Our investigation shows how attackers have used fake Facebook and Google login pages to trick their victims into revealing their passwords. It is already extremely dangerous to be a human rights defender in Pakistan and it is alarming to see how attacks on their work are moving online,” he said.

https://dailytimes.com.pk/240689/investigation-uncovers-sinister-hacking-campaign-targeting-activists-in-pakistan/

https://reliefweb.int/report/pakistan/pakistan-human-rights-under-surveillance

 

For some of my other posts on Pakistan see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/pakistan/