Posts Tagged ‘star power’

George Clooney: one man shows also carry risks..

May 14, 2019

I mentioned in a positive way George Clooney’s action in the human rights area, recently re Brunei [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/04/04/brunei-back-to-the-middle-ages-will-hotel-boycott-work/]. I believe his ‘instincts’ are good but there is always a danger with basically a ‘one-person’ outfit that there is insuffcient networking/research and that individual words trump wise statements. Michael Taylor for Reuters reports on 14 May 2019 that “George Clooney misfires among LGBT+ activists over ‘warning shot’ to Brunei neighbours“.  The key issue is that some Indonesian and Malaysian human rights defenders think that their countries – which have a modicum of democratic process compared to Brunei – should not be tarred with the same brush.

Oscar-winning actor George Clooney was criticised by LGBT+ activists after he called a boycott of luxury hotels owned by Brunei a “warning shot” to Indonesia and Malaysia should they consider introducing similar anti-gay laws.  “It sends a warning shot over to countries like Indonesia and Malaysia – who are also considering these laws – that the business people, the big banks, those guys are going to say ‘don’t even get into that business’.

But Clooney’s remarks sparked an online backlash as critics and regional LGBT+ activists pointed out major differences between Brunei and its Islamic neighbours. “I call on George Clooney and Hollywood to listen and work together with local activists and human rights defenders on the ground,” Numan Afifi, president of the LGBT+ advocacy PELANGI Campaign in Malaysia, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “Local activists have been putting their lives at risk on the ground working, for years,” Afifi said. “His statement, while well-meaning, might also be counterproductive for our case.”

Dede Oetomo, one of Indonesia’s most prominent LGBT+ activists and founder of LGBT+ rights group GAYa NUSANTARA, also questioned Clooney’s comments. “Malaysia and Indonesia are larger entities and have some democratic processes that although not perfect, they work,” Oetomo said. “Pressure from within is more possible in both countries, though it is frustratingly slow and protracted.”

http://news.trust.org//item/20190514105512-1ox5t/

 

Star power for good: George and Amal Clooney at least try to tackle controversial issues

March 15, 2019

On 16 March 2019 Belinda Goldsmith reports for the Thomson Reuters Foundation from Edinburgh how celebrity couple George and Amal Clooney say they want to use their star power to push for justice globally for women, children, LGBT+ people, religious minorities and journalists. Too many celebrities simply ignore these (controversial) issues and focus instead on less complicated charity work or – worse – serve the human rights violators by lending their name [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/31/amnesty-international-calls-on-golfers-not-to-play-the-saudi-propaganda-game/]

The couple’s Clooney Foundation for Justice, set up in 2016, plans to this year launch, TrialWatch, a project to monitor trials and create an index to track which countries are using courtrooms to oppress minorities and government critics. Amal Clooney, an international human rights lawyer, said it was important to expose injustices and the countries using courts to target vulnerable people, human rights defenders and press freedom. “We now have the highest number of journalists in jail in the world since records began,” she told a charity gala organized by the People’s Postcode Lottery in Edinburgh. [See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/10/16/amal-clooney-speaks-about-the-maldives-at-ai-side-event/]

The Clooneys said they were both committed to using their fame to raise awareness about human rights abuses and corruption. Amal Clooney said her job was less glamorous than it might seem as it mainly involved piling through vast amounts of paperwork but their fame could be used to their advantage. [See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/02/26/george-clooney-speaks-out-on-sexual-violence-in-darfur/]

Her actor husband also played down the glamor of fame, joking about being the father of one-year-old twins, but acknowledged that he had always been determined to use the public spotlight to do good. “I didn’t grow up wealthy,” he said. “If you end up getting lucky, you should share that luck.

Danny Glover uses his image to brush up venal Venezuela

March 30, 2018

The way celebrities involve themselves in human rights (positively or negatively) has been a topic in this blog several times [see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/02/28/and-the-nominees-are-oscars-for-human-rights/ and recently https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/11/10/helen-hunt-joins-list-of-celebrities-that-show-insensitivity-on-human-rights/]. Venezuela has played the game getting star power on its side, but the president of the New York based Human Rights Foundation, Thor Halvorssen, is quite right that when it concerns a UNICEF goodwill ambassador matters become more serious: “…the moment Danny Glover travels to Venezuela using the seal of the United Nations’ highest office that deals with children, then Glover’s statements deserve higher scrutiny,” Thus HRF’s demand that UNICEF should strip Danny Glover from its honorary Ambassadorship.

 

This Saturday in Caracas, Glover praised Maduro’s government for “advancing humanity through education, health, and other aspects that honor humankind.” Meanwhile, the dictatorship’s economic policies have brought over 30 million Venezuelans into the worst humanitarian crisis in the 200-year history of the country. In 2017, Venezuelans lost 24 pounds in average due to hunger and undernourishment and, according to NGO Caritas, 33% of Venezuela’s 10 million child population has stunted growth.
 
[HRF adds: “Danny Glover has behaved unspeakably in his support for the Venezuelan regime and his motivation is unbridled greed. Eleven years ago, Glover received close to 20 million dollars from the Venezuelan regime to produce a film that was never made, and the funds have yet to be returned to the Venezuelan people. The payment was a crude payoff, masked as a production budget, in order to ensure that Glover was a permanent public relations agent for the Venezuelan government. In doing so, Glover violated American laws regarding registration as a foreign agent. But most of all, he lost all credibility as a spokesperson for human rights,”]

(Early this year, the International Criminal Court in The Hague (ICC), Netherlands, opened an investigation against the Venezuelan regime for crimes against humanity, while the Organization of American States (OAS) has created a commission to investigate gross human rights violations committed by the regime and refer their results to the ICC.)

https://mailchi.mp/e97c4e3f959c/hrf-to-un-fire-danny-glover-from-unicef-ambassadorship?e=f80cec329e

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.

Indian star Celina Jaitly shows Erykah Badu the way

May 10, 2014

A few days ago Erykah Badu on Twitter remained obstinate over her scheduled performance in The Gambia. Other bloggers (e.g. http://yafri.ca/erykah-badu-faces-criticism-over-her-performance-for-gambian-president/) are adding to the noise by pointing out that President Jammeh’s regime consistently cracks down on the opposition and the media. In its submission to the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Gambia, the human rights organisation, Amnesty International, stated “Since Gambia’s first Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in 2010, the human rights situation in the country has deteriorated. The government continues to stifle freedom of expression and commit other human rights violations with impunity.” An online campaign has been put in place by web users to enlighten the singer about the Gambian dictator. See Facebook and twitter campaign of disapproval [@fatbellybella]. HOWEVER in the meantime it seems that Erykah Badu has decided NOT to attend Gambia’s much publicized Roots Homecoming Festival. Especially Gambian dissidents based in the United States have repeatedly prevailed on the Grammy winning artist not to attend the festival. ..Interestingly  the singer’s likely absence has angered Gambian artist Gibou Balla Gaye, who goes with the street name Gee.  Perhaps good to note here that Gee is the son of Balla Gaye, Gambia’s former Finance Minister. 

Anyway it is nice to be able to point to better examples, such as Celina Jaitly in India who tackled the taboo of gay relations. The United Nations Free & Equal Campaign published on 29 April 2014 this first-ever Bollywood music video for gay rights, featuring Bollywood star Celina Jaitly: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lihVCIFamb0 [sorry you have CONTR/click as the embedding does not work – but worth a view!!].

https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/05/02/erykah-badu-unapologetic-about-her-human-rights-performance-and-plans-to-repeat-in-the-gambia/

http://www.freedomnewspaper.com/Homepage/tabid/36/newsid367/9872/Gee-The-Fake-Ass-Gambian-Artist-Is-Crying-Over-Erykah-Badus-Failure-To-Attend-Gambias-Roots-Homecoming-Festival–/Default.aspx

Erykah Badu unapologetic about her human rights performance and plans to repeat in the Gambia

May 2, 2014

SXSW Film-Interactive-Music - Day 9

(Erykah Badu performs onstage 15 March 2014 in Austin; Roger Kisby—Getty Images)

The misuse of star power by Erykah Badu referred to in an earlier post got a nice follow up according to the opinion piece posted by Thor Halvorssen and Alex Gladstein in TIME of 2 May 2014. After recalling in detail her singing for the Swazi absolute monarch [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/04/30/another-case-of-misused-star-power-erykah-badu-performs-for-swaziland-dictator/], the authors describe Badu’s defensive and sometimes offensive comments in the social media: Read the rest of this entry »

Another case of misused star power: Erykah Badu performs for Swaziland dictator

April 30, 2014

In the series of ‘star power’ for bad causes, American R&B singer Erykah Badu attended the 46th birthday party of King Mswati III of Swaziland on Thursday 24 April, where she sang “Happy Birthday” and dedicated her first song to the “sons of Kings”. The singer has been involved in a number of philanthropic ventures, including Artists for a New South Africa, which works to “advance human rights,” but her visit to Swaziland does not seem to fit in with this. Jeffrey Smith, an advocacy officer at the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, said it was “highly unfortunate that someone of Erykah Badu’s international stature would use her star power for inherently reprehensible reasons — namely, to provide legitimacy, and, in a sense, endorse a brutal dictator who both manages and directs every facet of Africa’s last absolute monarchy.

Journalist Bkheki Makhubu and human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko are currently imprisoned in Swaziland https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/03/19/swaziland-should-immediately-release-two-human-rights-defenders-arrested-on-17-march/ 

On Monday, Miss Badu tweeted: “I have no political affiliation to anything besides my AFRO. However, I will stand with any group opposing injustice. But not on twitter.” She then retweeted a comment by a man named Joe Black that read: “[Erykah Badu] owes NOBODY an explanation of why she performed in Swaziland. She’s a professional artist, not some phony rights defender.” Remarkably on Tuesday, Miss Badu tweeted that she was not paid for the Swaziland event.

via Human rights groups demand answers after Erykah Badu performs for Swaziland dictator – Washington Times.

for other posts on star power see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/star-power/

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/

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.

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 »