Posts Tagged ‘whistleblowers’

30 “information heroes” honored by Reporters Without Borders

June 16, 2020

Coronavirus “information heroes” – journalism that saves lives

On 15 June t2020 he NGO Reporters Without Borders (RSF) published a list of 30 coronavirus “information heroes” – 30 journalists, whistleblowers and media outlets whose courage, perseverance or capacity to innovate has helped to circulate reliable and vital information during the Covid-19 pandemic. See the list

Every crisis produces its heroes. Around the world there are journalists, whistleblowers and media outlets that have managed to overcome the barriers to information created since the start of the pandemic. Through their reporting or by means of initiatives that have needed courage, audacity and determination, they have provided access to trustworthy and quality information, helped to resist censorship, and combatted the runaway disinformation that threatens public health.

Some people have taken such big risks to report the reality of the pandemic that they have died as a result, while others have disappeared or have been jailed,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “Prosecuted, attacked, insulted – many have paid a high price for defending the right to information and for combatting the rumours and disinformation that aggravate the consequences of this public health crisis. These new heroes remind us that journalism can save lives. They deserve our attention and admiration.”

The list compiled by RSF, which is not intended to be exhaustive, includes both well-known media figures and people the public have not heard of. Although they come from all five main continents, nearly a third of these 30 heroes are from Asia, where the pandemic originated. Six are from Europe and Central Asia, and the others are from Africa, the Americas and the Middle East.

What most of these heroes have in common is the fact that they revealed information highlighting the pandemic’s gravity or their government’s mismanagement of the crisis. Some are veteran reporters like Ana Lalić in Serbia or combative investigators like Blaž Zgaga in Slovenia, Andjouza Abouheir in Comoros and Sergei Satsukin Belarus. However, others are ordinary citizens who, in response to the urgency and gravity of the public health crisis, decided to blow the whistle with the aim of saving as many lives a possible. It was an eye doctor, Li Wenliang, who first alerted the world to the existence of a fast-spreading disease in December 2019. And it was a lawyer, Chen Qiushi, who posted videos on his blog revealing the chaos in the hospitals in Wuhan, the site of the initial Covid-19 outbreak. Li died of the virus while Chen was forcibly quarantined and never reappeared.

You often pay dearly for the truth. In Venezuela, freelance journalist Darvinson Rojas spent 12 days in prison for a tweet questioning official pandemic figures. In India, newspaper reporter Vijay Vineet is facing a possible six-month jail sentence for reporting that lockdown restrictions forced hungry kids to eat cattle fodder. In Bangladesh, the well-known cartoonist Ahmed Kabir Kishore is facing a possible life sentence for posting cartoons on Facebook about politics during the Covid-19 crisis that alluded, inter alia, to corruption.

Others have avoided prison but can no longer work. After a lengthy and violent police interrogation over an article questioning the Kingdom of Eswatini’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis, Swati Newsweek website editor Eugene Dube had to flee to neighbouring South Africa. Chris Buckley, a Beijing-based reporter for the New York Times, was forced to leave China after spending 76 days in Wuhan at the height of the outbreak. For the first time in 24 years, his visa was not renewed.

Many of these heroes displayed courage in resisting pressure and censorship. They include Caixin, an independent English and Chinese-language media outlet in Beijing whose reporting has questioned the Chinese government’s narrative. For some, such as Afghan reporter Anisseh Shahid, it took courage to simply keep reporting in the field with the threat of infection compounding the threat of a Taliban attack. In the United States, several White House correspondents have distinguished themselves by their perseverance in adversity. Despite constant attacks by President Trump and his aides, they continue week after week to question his handling of the pandemic.

This exceptional crisis has also produced innovative initiatives that have helped to get the facts out and combat disinformation. In Africa, the Ivorian web radio WA FM and the Togolese news site TogoCheck were created to combat rumours and fake news and disseminate trustworthy information that the public can use to protect themselves and their health. In Brazil, alternative media outlets pooled resources to form a “Gabinete de crise” to inform the abandoned inhabitants of Rio de Janeiro’s favelas, while the Wayuri Network’s journalists have risen to the challenge of informing more than 750 indigenous communities in the Amazon. In Russia, 25 media outlets formed Syndicate-100 to make it easier for medical personnel, who have been hit hard by the epidemic, to report problems and alert the public.

Finally, RSF pays a special tribute to journalists in Guayaquil, Ecuador’s business capital and the site of Latin America’s biggest Covid-19 outbreak. The photos of bodies in Guayaquil’s streets have gone around the world. Despite being unprepared and lacking personal protective equipment, the city’s journalists have continued to work and to report in locations with a high infection rate. And this has taken a heavy toll. Thirteen of them have died of the virus.

https://rsf.org/en/news/coronavirus-information-heroes-journalism-saves-lives

see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/04/21/2020-world-press-freedom-index-is-out/

Daniel Ellsberg wins Sweden’s Olof Palme Prize

January 10, 2019

American whistleblower wins Sweden's Olof Palme Prize
Daniel Ellsberg at a rally in Washington DC in 2010. Photo: AP Photo/Susan Walsh

On 9 January 2019 Swedish news paper The Local reported: “American whistleblower wins Sweden’s Olof Palme Prize“. Daniel Ellsberg, born in 1931, is best known for releasing the Pentagon Papers, a top-secret Pentagon study which revealed that several US administrations had misled the public over the war in Vietnam, to the New York Times. He was charged with espionage and conspiracy, but the charges were later dismissed. “Regardless of such consequences, his decision led to the removal of a mendacious government, a shortening of an illegal war, and an untold number of saved lives,” read a statement by the Olof Palme Foundation. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/05/27/5-june-stockholm-breakfast-seminar-on-the-importance-of-whistleblowers/

More than four decades later Daniel Ellsberg again takes on the Pentagon’s secret war plans. He warns us of a nuclear holocaust, caused by the refusal of the nine nuclear states to comply with the binding commitment of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons to further the goals of a nuclear-free world.” The Foundation said it will award the prize at a ceremony on January 30th in Stockholm “for his profound humanism and exceptional moral courage”.

For more on this and other awards: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/olof-palme-prize

https://www.thelocal.se/20190109/american-whistleblower-daniel-ellsberg-pentagon-papers-wins-swedens-2018-olof-palme-prize

In praise of whistleblowers as human rights defenders

March 17, 2018

Are whistleblowers “Traitors or Defenders of Human Rights“? I have asked myself this question many times also in this blog [see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/09/29/edward-snowden-can-still-not-collect-his-awards/. On 16 writes for the Good Men Project a convincing  piece that they are:

We all know, or are becoming aware, that the ‘global war on terror’ is being pushed by the Western Hemisphere. (Case in point Daniel Ellsberg}…In today’s post modern world, we have Edward Snowden who exposed cover ups of war crimes, controversial mass surveillance, and bulk data collection programs as legal and effective; all while having violated warrant procedures/court orders, due diligence, privacy laws, human rights, liberties, and the Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land. Every government and former government member has taken an oath to serve and protect the Constitution, and the laws that are supposed to defend and help every single one of us. Unfortunately, rogue policies and states have gotten away, and continued to operate without any accountability, oversight, or responsibility. Torture under the euphemism of Enhanced Interrogation Techniques was exposed by the former CIA case officer turned whistleblower, John KariakouThomas Drake, former Senior CIA and NSA analyst, blew the whistle on the cover ups of 9/11, fraud, waste, and abuse that went all the way up to the highest levels. Bill Binney, former NSA mathematician and cryptanalyst blew the whistle too on 9/11 and mass surveillance programs that are unconstitutional. Documentaries on Netflix such as Silenced, A Good American, and CitizenFour reveal what happened to whistleblowers when tyrannical governments label them as ‘traitors’ and want them to be existent.

….

Lessons can be learned from whistleblowers:

StrengthThe courage to speak the truth against lies and crimes against humanity, against the corrupt, greedy, poisoned hearts of men.

GritDetermination through educational and awareness events, peaceful protests, doing interviews, community engagement and media involvement shows perseverance of standing up for one’s beliefs of speaking the truth. Having support systems helps continue one’s sparked resolve to shed light on the dark. There’s no I in Team.

Honesty is best policyCandor delivered right through honesty is the best approach to demonstrating what one wants or needs to say. Honesty is about dignity of self and respect of others to speak the truth.

Human rights are of moral and ethical issue not merely illegal v. legal. Human rights are part of the law. Legal decisions and conclusions aren’t equivalent to morality and ethics. Crimes against humanity were once legal. Policies aren’t the same as having a conscience and exercising moral fiber.

United we rise, divided we fall. Note: Not to say breaking oaths to keep legitimate secrets are to be violated. Leaks can do severe damage to government projects, and the lives of those who work the operations to make a difference. To serve and project justice is serious business. Being a leaker and a whistleblower are two different things. Advocating and exercising truth, morality, ethics are the important take away from this story. Our humanity through liberty makes us, human.

Remember, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” -Edmund Burke

see also https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/05/27/5-june-stockholm-breakfast-seminar-on-the-importance-of-whistleblowers/

https://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/traitors-or-defenders-of-human-rights-wcz/

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights under pressure for providing names of human rights defenders

February 10, 2017

There has been a slew of accusations coming from the Government Accountability Project (GAP) – a US based whistleblower NGO – against the UN and in particular the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. The latest piece by Bea Edwards is entitled “Trouble at UN OHCHR: Investigate the High Commissioner” (9 February 2017). While I am most supportive of the OHCHR and its successive high commissioners including the current incumbent who has been vocal and courageous in taking on powerful adversaries [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/zeid-raad-al-hussein/ and especially https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/09/14/un-high-commissioner-for-human-rights-states-may-shut-my-office-out-but-they-will-not-shut-us-up/], I have to admit that there are some worrying aspects, especially the latest accusation that a senior official “made a habit of providing the Chinese Government with the names of Chinese human rights activists who applied for accreditation to the sessions of the Human Rights Council before they traveled to Geneva“. UN Watch – known for its anti UN bias – took this issue and even linked it to the death of Cao Shunli [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/cao-shunli/]. The High Commissioner issued on 2 February 2017 a forceful statement entitled “UN rights office categorically rejects claims it endangered NGOs” (see http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=21139&LangID=E). In this statement it says that “Chinese authorities, and others, regularly ask the UN Human Rights Office, several days or weeks prior to Human Rights Council meetings, whether particular NGO delegates are attending the forthcoming session. The Office never confirms this information until the accreditation process is formally under way, and until it is sure that there is no obvious security risk.” I give both document below but must say that the UN statement leaves open the possibility that Governments are given the names of those who intend to attend before they have left their country. Read the rest of this entry »

Edward Snowden can still not collect his award(s)

September 29, 2016

The Norwegian branch of the PEN Club had hoped to honor whistleblower Edward Snowden in Oslo, but a Norwegian court has dismissed a bid for assurances he would not be extradited should he visit Norway to collect the Carl von Ossietzky award which was granted to him in 2014 [see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/12/15/edward-snowden-gets-another-human-rights-award-in-berlin/]. Read the rest of this entry »

Which heroes should we cast in bronze? Human rights defenders and their statues.

February 3, 2016

Some time back, 12 October 2015, Simon Bradley wrote for Swissinfo a piece on the question: “Which heroes should we cast in bronze?”. Indeed, statues celebrating dead generals, kings, artists and philosophers are found in public spaces around the world, but what about contemporary heroes, especially human rights defenders? I found a few cases where human rights defenders objected to a statue (think of the Confederate statue issue in the USA, or the protest against a statue of Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patellar on the Sardar Sarovar Dam in India – see: https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/24188), but the positive question of which human rights heroes should be honored and how is an interesting one. Bradley’s article and thus this post concern just Geneva. I wonder what other experiences exist in this area and would welcome contributions! Read the rest of this entry »

5 June Stockholm: breakfast seminar on the importance of whistleblowers

May 27, 2015

Stockholm-based Civil Rights Defenders and Svenska PEN are organizing on 5 June 2015 a seminar where , Daniel Ellsberg, and Jesselyn Radack will talk about the importance of whistleblowers, how they are treated and what states and the international community need to do to improve their protection.

Mass surveillance, corruption and human rights violations are all issues that have been brought into light by whistle blowers. Protecting and supporting these individuals is important for any democratic state, but as history tragically has shown, this is not always the case. Today, a state’s treatment of whistle blowers can be considered a democratic litmus test – a way to measure how well-functioning its democracy is.

There is some ‘soft law’ on the protection of whistle blowers in the international arena, such as Resolution 1729 of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the Draft Recommendation on the Protection of Whistleblowers adopted by the Committee of Ministers of 30 April 2014, and there is binding jurisprudence from the European Court for Human Rights (derived from article 10 and linked to the media), but there is no internationally binding definition of what is a whistleblower and his/her protection.

For earlier posts on this topic: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/whistleblower/

The seminar (5 June from 9.00 – 10.00 am will latched place at Civil Rights Defenders, Stora Nygatan 26, and will be moderated by Ola Larsmo, chair Svenska PEN. The seminar will be conducted in English, and broadcasted live at Civil Rights Defenders’ Bambuser Channel. For more information, please contact Miriam Nordfors: miriam.nordfors@civilrightsdefenders.org

[More about the participants:

Thomas Drake is a former senior executive at the National Security Agency where he blew the whistle on massive multi-billion dollar fraud, waste and the widespread violations of the rights of citizens through secret mass surveillance programs after 9/11. As retaliation and reprisal, the Obama administration indicted Drake in 2010 as the first whistle blower since Daniel Ellsberg charged with espionage, and Drake faced 35 years in prison, turning him into an Enemy of the State for his oath to defend the Constitution. In 2011, the government’s case against him collapsed and he went free in a plea deal.

Daniel Ellsberg is a former U.S. military analyst who served in Vietnam, worked at the RAND Corporation, and then risked decades in prison to release the top-secret Pentagon Papers to The New York Times and other newspapers in 1971 — thereby adding impetus to the movement to end the Vietnam War. Although Ellsberg faced espionage and other felony charges, the case against him was dismissed because of egregious misconduct by the Nixon administration. Ellsberg has been a strong supporter of modern-day NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden and convicted Army whistle-blower Chelsea Manning. Daniel Ellsberg was awarded the Right Livelihood Award in 2006.

Jesselyn Radack is the director of National Security & Human Rights at the Government Accountability Project (GAP), the leading U.S. whistle blower organization. Her program focuses specifically on secrecy, surveillance, torture and discrimination. She has been at the forefront of defending against the government’s unprecedented “war on whistle blowers”. She represents national security and intelligence community employees who have been investigated, charged or prosecuted under the Espionage Act for allegedly mishandling classified information, including Edward Snowden. Radack is author of TRAITOR: The Whistleblower & the “American Taliban”.]

Civil Rights Defenders – Breakfast seminar on whistle blowers; their importance and the need for protection.