Posts Tagged ‘Unesco’

Myanmar: time for Aung San Suu Kyi to return (at least some of) her many human rights awards?

September 3, 2017

While receiving sharply worded emails and social media messages that the Rohingyas in Myanmar do not exist or have been ‘invented by the Saudis’, other more sober contributions put the serious question – whether with hindsight – Aung San Suu Kyi should not give back the many international awards she has received.  Aung San Suu Kyi is the recipient of at least 15 international awards (e.g. Nobel Peace Prize, Rafto, Sakharov, AI’s Ambassador of Conscience, Vaclav Havel Price for Creative Dissent). The UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize for the Promotion of Tolerance and Non-Violence (SIC) seems especially awkward.

Almost a year ago I referred in a blog post [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/09/20/how-awards-can-get-it-wrong-four-controversial-decisions-in-one-week/] to “a serious expression of concern by an ethnic minority: Prensa Latina reported on 19 September that hundreds of Muslim students demonstrated against the Peter J. Gomes Humanitarian Award 2016 given to Minister of State of Myanmar Aung San Suu Kyi by the Harvard Foundation. According to the website of the Harvard Foundation recent prizes of that foundation were given to education activist Malala Yousafzai, Kofi Annan and Ban Ki-Moon. According to the Mizzima news agency, the young people consider that Aung San Suu Kyi does nothing to handle the persecution of the Rohingya Muslim minority. According to the local press, Suu Kyi herself considered, while receiving the prize, that in her country there is still a long way to go before saying that the people are free and safe.

Now Reuters reports that about 120,000 people – mostly displaced and stateless Rohingya Muslims – in Rakhine camps are not receiving food supplies or healthcare after contractors for the World Food Program suspended operations following the government accusations. Staff have been too afraid to show up for work. “As a result of the disruption of activities in central Rakhine state, many people are not receiving their normal food assistance and primary healthcare services have been severe disrupted,” said Pierre Peron, a spokesman for the UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs.

Suu Kyi’s government refuses to allow UN investigators and the media access to parts of Rakhine where rights monitors fear a campaign of ethnic cleansing is underway.

Suu Kyi was idolised while spending 15 years as a prisoner of Myanmar’s army generals. Now she refuses to speak up for 1.1 million stateless and long persecuted Rohingya. She may not control her country’s armed forces but, since taking high office, Suu Kyi has refused to acknowledge the plight of the Rohingya in any meaningful way. She deflects questions about the persecution of Rohingya, saying only the “rule of law” must apply in Rakhine. She also dismisses the independent UN inquiry as “not suitable for the situation of our country.”

……Some human rights activists who campaigned for years for Suu Kyi’s release when she was a political prisoner now feel a deep sense of betrayal from the woman they formerly saw as a heroine. Perhaps it is time for her to hand back her Noble Peace Prize. (The story The ‘human catastrophe’ that betrays Suu Kyi’s Nobel prize first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.)

Front line Defenders reported on 2 August that human rights defender Ko Swe Win was prevented from travelling and detained in connection with defamation charges on 30 July 2017,  at Yangon International Airport as he was trying to fly  to Bangkok. He was reportedly taken into police custody in relation to a defamation case brought by a follower of extremist Buddhist monk U Wirathu, who told the police he believed Ko Swe Win was attempting to flee the country. Despite the defamation lawsuit filed against him, no travel restrictions were issued against Ko Swe Win. The human rights defender was released on bail on 31 July 2017. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/11/23/burma-continued-prosecution-of-human-rights-defenders-and-peaceful-demonstrators/

Sources:

http://sea-globe.com/myanmar-war-on-terror/

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/ko-swe-win

Arakan and traces of blood on Nobel Prize – Saadet Oruç – Daily Sabah

http://www.northerndailyleader.com.au/story/4896812/the-human-catastrophe-that-betrays-suu-kyis-nobel-prize/?cs=4141

Eritrean-born journalist Dawit Isaak awarded 2017 UNESCO’s Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize

May 4, 2017

Dawit Isaak in Sweden circa 1987-88 © Kalle Ahlsén
Dawit Isaak, an imprisoned Eritrean-Swedish journalist, has been chosen to receive the 2017 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize. Mr. Isaak was arrested in a crackdown on the media that occurred in September 2001. The last time he was heard from was in 2005. His present location is unknown.  An independent international jury of media professionals recommended unanimously Mr. Isaak in recognition of his courage, resistance and commitment to freedom of expression, and the recommendation was endorsed by the UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova.

Defending fundamental freedoms calls for determination and courage – it calls for fearless advocates,” said Irina Bokova. “This is the legacy of Guillermo Cano, and the message we send today with this decision to highlight the work of Dawit Isaak.” Dawit Isaak joins a long list of courageous journalists who have persevered to shed light in the dark spaces; keeping their communities informed against all odds,” said Cilla Benkö, President of the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize 2017 Jury. “Some have given their lives in the pursuit of truth. Many have been imprisoned. Dawit Isaak has spent nearly 16 years in jail, without charge or trial. I sincerely hope that with this award the world will say, ‘Free Dawit Isaak Now.’”

Dawit Isaak, a playwright, journalist and writer, moved to Sweden in 1987, where he later became a citizen. After the independence of Eritrea, he returned to his homeland to become one of the founders and reporters of Setit, the first independent newspaper in the country. He was known for his critical and insightful reporting. Mr. Isaak was arrested in September 2001 during a political crackdown on the so-called G-15, a group of politicians, and journalists critical of Government policies. Some were detained and tortured, others disappeared. The last known sighting of Mr. Isaak was in 2005. His whereabouts now are unknown.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, Sheila B. Keetharuth, said: “The Eritrean authorities should stop the practice of arrests and detention carried out without legal basis instantly,” welcoming the award of the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize 2017 to Mr. Isaak.

The Prize was awarded during the celebration of World Press Freedom Day, 3 May, hosted in Jakarta, Indonesia this year in the presence of the Director General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, and the President of Indonesia, Joko Widodo.

Created by UNESCO’s Executive Board in 1997, the annual UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize honours a person, organization or institution that has made an outstanding contribution to the defence and, or promotion of press freedom anywhere in the world, and especially when this has been achieved in the face of danger.

The $25,000 Prize is named in honour of Guillermo Cano Isaza, a Colombian journalist who was assassinated in front of the offices of his newspaper, El Espectador, in Bogotá, on 17 December 1986. It is funded by the Cano Foundation (Colombia) and the Helsingin Sanomat Foundation (Finland).

see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/02/14/reporters-without-borders-published-its-2014-world-press-freedom-index/

Sources:

Eritrean-born journalist Dawit Isaak awarded UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize 2017

http://mareeg.com/eritrea-must-free-prize-winning-journalist-says-un-human-rights-expert/

How awards can get it wrong: four controversial decisions in one week!

September 20, 2016

This blog regularly covers human rights awards [e.g. https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/human-rights-awards/]. Most of the awards end up with the right people or – if needed – decisions get corrected [e.g. https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/07/10/russian-protest-artist-pavlensky-stripped-of-havel-prize-over-support-for-violent-partisans/]. This week four controversial cases have come to the fore although they ‘fortunately’ concern more political kind of awards given to more political kind of people. Still instructive for those who consider giving awards: Read the rest of this entry »

Syrian journalist Mazen Darwish deserved winner of UNESCO/Guillermo Cano award

April 8, 2015

 The winner of the 2015 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize is the Syrian journalist and human rights defender, Mazen Darwish, currently imprisoned. The Prize will be awarded during the celebration of World Press Freedom Day, 3 May, which will this year be hosted by Latvia (National Library, Riga, 6 p.m.).

An independent International Jury of media professionals recommended Mazen Darwish in recognition of the work that he has carried out in Syria for more than ten years at great personal sacrifice, enduring a travel ban, harassment, as well as repeated detention and torture. Darwish, a lawyer and press freedom advocate, is the president of the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression (CMFE), founded in 2004, and one of the founders of the Voice newspaper and syriaview.net, an independent news site, which has been banned by the Syrian authorities. In 2011, Darwish established Media Club, the first Syrian magazine about media affairs.

He has been detained since February 2012, when he was arrested with colleagues Hani Al-Zitani and Hussein Ghareer. Mazen won earlier awards from Roland Berger (2011), Reporters without Borders (2012) and Bruno Kreisky (2013).

The $25,000 Prize is named in honour of Guillermo Cano Isaza, a Colombian journalist who was assassinated in front of the offices of his newspaper, El Espectador, in Bogotá, on 17 December 1986. It is funded by the Cano Foundation (Colombia) and the Helsingin Sanomat Foundation (Finland).

Syrian journalist Mazen Darwish winner of UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize | United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Leah Levin; a human rights defender of the first rank

October 7, 2013

This blog tends to prioritize news on human rights defenders who are in trouble. This makes one overlook perhaps too often the contribution made by those who are working for the cause in other ways. To rectify I want to pay tribute to a woman who made an enormous contribution to the creation and development of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders: Leah Levin. After 20 years she is leaving the Board of the Foundation today, 7 October, just before the ceremony on October.

Leah was there from the start; from the now ancient looking logo of the first yearsmealogo

to the current one:

When the MEA came into being in 1992, a year after Martin died, Leah was already an ‘old hand’ and a well-known name in the international human rights movement. She was one of Martin’s closest friends and felt very strongly motivated by the idea of making sure his legacy was honored and made useful.

bellagio may 1979

(one of the last pictures where Leah and Martin are seen together – 1979 Bellagio)

But Leah is more than the MEA. She has a OBE and is Hon. Doctor of the University of Essex. She served on the Boards of United Nations Association, Anti-Slavery and International Alert. Was Director of JUSTICE from 1982-1992 and is currently on Boards of Redress, Readers International and The International Journal of Human Rights. She is the author of UNESCO’s ‘Human Rights : Questions and Answers’, one the world’s widely disseminated books on human rights.

Twenty years of active Board membership in any enterprise is impressive; doing it on a voluntary basis without always getting the recognition deserved is outright admirable. We all owe her a lot.

Ethnic Azerbaijani human rights defenders in detention in Iran resort to hunger strike after unfair trial

August 5, 2013

Since 13 July 2013, five ethnic Azerbaijani human rights defenders detained in Tabriz prison have taken part in an ongoing hunger strike in protest at their conviction following an unfair trial. Mahmud Fezli, Latif Haseni, Ayat Mehrali Baglou, Behboud Gholizadeh and Shahram Radmehr are members of the organisation Yeni Gamoh, Read the rest of this entry »

Azerbaijan: press freedom under threat say Civil Rights Defenders

February 20, 2013

On 17 February 2013 I wrote about the case of Eynulla Fatullayev, editor of the website Haqqin.az, a former AI prisoner of conscience and winner of press freedom awards (see also quote at the end of this post) who seems to have taken a more apologetic stand with regard to violations in his home country Azerbaijan. Just a few days before – 11 February – the NGO Civil Rights Defenders had published a piece under the title:  ‘New crackdown on human rights activities in Azerbaijan’. There seems to be no stand taken by Fatullayev (at least not in English).

Photo: Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety (IRFS)

Avaz Zeynalli, chief editor of Khural newspaper, charged for tax evasion and corruption.

The Azeri government is putting new pressure on the country’s already repressed civil society. NGOs that receive even minor funds can be severely punished, according to a new draft law. The draft follows a series of repressions of media workers and civil activists. According to the proposed amendments NGOs receiving donation over the equivalent of 190 euro without a proper agreement, face up to 3500 euro and confiscation of property. This increases the authorities’ control over NGOs. The violations have grown in the beginning of 2013. Media workers that have been covering demonstrations and riots have been arrested, questions and in some cases beaten. At the same time the homes of journalists and civil activists have been searched, detained, subjected to gas attacks, put under surveillance and in other ways obstructed in their work. Read the rest of this entry »

‘Western’ human rights defenders accused of double standards by controversial Azeri journalist

February 16, 2013

On 15 February 2013 News.az (an Azeri news agency) distributed under the title “Western human rights defenders’ silence shows double standards” a bit of a rambling attack on western-based international organizations and human rights defenders for using double standards by being quickly critical of repression of journalists in the ‘new democracies’ such as Azerbaijan and being silent with regard to similar repression in western Europe.

112464The 15 February piece is mostly based on an interview with Eynulla Fatullayev, editor of the website Haqqin.az, who stated that the case of journalists from News of the World is a high-profile case, and certainly should be considered in the plane of restrictions on the rights of journalists to work freely. What the article does not state is that on 22 January of this year Amnesty International has announced the termination of its collaboration with Eynulla Fatullayev, a former prisoner of conscience, and head of the Public Association for Human Rights in Azerbaijan.  Amnesty International believes that Fatullayev, and in particular, his site Haqqin.az, is used by the Government of Azerbaijan to discredit European criticism of human rights violations in Azerbaijan. In 2011 Amnesty International had issued a “mass tweet” on Fatullayev’s behalf; Fatullayev attributed his release inter alia to the work of Amnesty International activists.

In the interview Eynulla Fatullayev states among others the following: I am more than sure that if a similar event occurred in Azerbaijan or in another state, located in the zone of the new democracies, it would be followed by statements by most international organizations condemning the policy of the authorities to the persecution of media. Why in the case of the United Kingdom or other EU countries, all these organizations remain strangely silent?”  Read the rest of this entry »

Somalian radio journalist and human rights defender Abdiasis Abdinur Ibrahim sentenced to one year in prison

February 7, 2013

With in mind that 13 February will be World Radio Day I report via Front Line that on 5 February 2013, human rights defender, Abdiasis Abdinur Ibrahim, also known as Koronto, was sentenced to one year in prison following an attempt to investigate the case of a woman who claimed to have been raped by state security forces. Abdiasis Abdinur Ibrahim is a radio journalist working for two private radio stations, Radio Dalsan and Radio Ergo, both broadcasting from Mogadishu.

Frontline NEWlogo-2 full version - croppedThe trial of Abdiasis Abdinur Ibrahim opened on 2 February 2013, approximately three weeks following his arrest and detention by police officers of the local Central Investigation Department (CID). During the hearing, the prosecution alleged that Abdiasis Abdinur Ibrahim fabricated the reported rape in a news story and intended, by so doing, to insult a state institution. The human rights defender was tried under Islamic Sharia law. Abdiasis Abdinur Ibrahim was also accused of entering a house without consent from the owner. The human rights defender had reportedly gone to the house of the reported rape victim to conduct an interview with her. In closing the case on the morning of 5 February, the prosecution accused Abdiasis Abdinur Ibrahim of distributing false information to various media outlets causing prejudice to the public trust of Somali security forces. On the same day, the court handed down its decision, convicting the journalist to one year in prison. Journalists and human rights defenders who observed the trial report gross due process irregularities as the trial was dominated by the prosecution and the accused journalist was not afforded sufficient opportunity to defend himself. Abdiasis Abdinur Ibrahim’s lawyer has announced his intention to appeal the conviction.

On 15 January, the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) had released a public statement requesting that Abdiasis Abdinur Ibrahim be immediately and unconditionally released and expressing concern over reports that some members of the police were putting pressure on the reported rape victim to retract her story.

13th of February will now be “World Radio Day”

January 9, 2013

Geneva-based NGO “Media and human rights” reports that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has proclaimed the 13th of February “World Radio Day”. It is a moment to pay homage to one of the most important and resilient media. A  time also to remember that local radio journalists are often in the firing line, especially in regions where citizens do not have access, due to lack of infrastructure or resources, to other media like TV or the Internet.

For more information, go to the UNESCO World Radio Day page http://www.unesco.org/new/en/communication-and-information/events/prizes-and-celebrations/celebrations/world-radio-day/why-the-world-radio-day/ and to http://www.unesco.org/new/en/communication-and-information/events/prizes-and-celebrations/celebrations/world-radio-day/safety-of-radio-journalists/radio-in-the-line-of-fire/ for an overview of attacks against radio journalists.

 from: Media and human rights: February 13 World Radio Day.