Sunday, September 19, 2010

Artist Alert: August 2010‏

ARTICLE 19


Artist Alert: August 2010

Art, in any form, constitutes a key medium through which information and ideas are imparted and received. Artist Alert, launched by ARTICLE 19 in 2008, highlights cases of artists around the world whose right to freedom of expression has been curtailed and abused, and seeks to more effectively promote and defend freedom to create.

Zimbabwe: No show for atrocity

Works by popular visual artist Owen Maseko have been banned by the government of Zimbabwe, according to VOA. The series of video clips, effigies and paintings depict the ‘Fifth Brigade atrocities’ of the 1980s which claimed the lives of more than 20,000 civilians. The massacre perpetrated by Mugabe’s army has since been dismissed by the President as “a moment of madness”. As soon as the show was launched at the National Art Gallery, police closed the exhibit and arrested both Maseko and the museum’s Director, Vote Thebe. It is thought the latter will face charges under the Censorship and Entertainment Act for allowing Maseko to stage the exhibition without a licence.

Guatemala: Mayan musician tortured and killed

A Mayan musician has been found dead after being abducted on 25 August, reports FreeMuse. Leonardo Guarcax, a promoter and defender of indigenous Maya culture in Guatemala, was discovered the day after his kidnapping, bearing marks of torture on his body. For many years Guarcax had taught indigenous music and dance at the Sotzil Cultural Centre, advocating for the rights of Guatemala’s Mayan population. His death was not the first tragedy to befall the Guarcax family with his cousins, Ernesto and Carlos, meeting similar fates in May 2009. Leonardo’s death is a reminder of the violence continually perpetrated against those attempting to maintain pre-hispanic culture in Guatemala.

Russia: Rapper jailed for lyrical 'hooliganism'

According to online news source, ArtInvestment.ru, Russian rap idol Ivan Alekseev has been detained and subsequently jailed for ‘hooliganism.’ On 2 August, following his band’s performance at a Volgograd concert, the town’s magistrate court sentenced the rapper to ‘administrative imprisonment’ for a period of ten days. Allegedly, law enforcers at the concert were enraged when Noize MC, Alekseev’s performing name, dedicated a song critical of the Russian police force to the festival authorities, climaxing with the chorus: “A Citizen, stop-stop, the pockets, bang-bang in the kidneys.” Attempts to pacify the police resulted in Alekseev’s immediate arrest at the end of his act.

Another Russian musician, recently interviewed by the International Herald Tribune, highlighted how music as a channel for popular dissent in his country is being marginalised. Yuri Schevchuk, lead singer in Russian rock act DDT, has been an outstanding critic of the Kremlin over three decades of song-writing and performance. The rocker claims that a broadcasting blackout on political musicians continues with a subsequent trend of self-censorship, silencing political artists.

Singapore: Book tour ends for the jolly hangman

British author, Alan Shadrake, 75, has had his planned book tour severely curtailed by accusations of criminal defamation. On landing in Singapore on 19 July, Shadrake was taken into police custody and detained for a series of interrogations. The veteran writer had flown to the city-state in order to promote his new book, Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock. Shortly after his arrest, authorities ordered several bookstore chains to stop sales of the new title. Shadrake’s book is an expose of Singapore’s harsh judicial system, where a range of offenses carry a mandatory death penalty. The attorney general’s office has accused the author of trying to “impugn the impartiality, integrity and independence of the judiciary.” The case continues.

Austria: Chinese pressure censors gun sculpture

Following intense pressure from a Chinese delegation, a controversial UN exhibition has been censored in Vienna, reports All Voices. The Art of Peacekeeping, a monolithic fusion of decommissioned guns, reclaimed ammunition and deactivated landmines forms the centrepiece of a new show at The Vienna International Centre. The sculpture, by Sandra Bromley and Wallis Kendal, has been exhibited across the world but its current context, surrounded by photographs of violence in Tibet, led to a Chinese outcry, with complaints made to the exhibition organisers and departments within the UN. The photographs have been removed at short notice leaving the stand-alone sculpture, “We were absolutely shocked,” said Bromley. “This was done without any consultation or permission.”

Malta: The death of the artist

The Maltese Independent recently highlighted the case of Aleksandar Stankovski, a painter whose work has stirred considerable controversy in Malta and its neighbouring island of Gozo. During the celebrations that surrounded the annual Malta Arts Festival, paintings submitted by Stankovski were banned from gallery displays across the two islands, due to their nude content being labelled ‘obscene’. The ban was a sad indictment of the festival, hailed as a symbol of Malta’s pluralism and creative diversity. A local rights group, The Front Against Censorship (FAC), criticised the organisers’ decision, “Isn’t it ironic that while Malta is supposed to be celebrating culture through The Malta Arts Festival, art is still being censored?” In a dramatic response to the state censorship the FAC staged a Funeral March of Art through the capital Valetta, with participants attired in all-black, mourning the demise of Maltese art in the 21st century. The painting ban is only the latest development in a worrying trend that has marred Malta’s reputation, including the prohibition of an ‘obscene’ play and the trial of a student group for writing an ‘indecent’ story.

United Kingdom: Grassroots mown down

A Cambridgeshire festival has been crippled by continuing restrictions. The Grassroots Festival, scheduled to take place in September, was abandoned by its organisers following what they describe as aggressive interference from the local council and police. Statements on the festival’s website blame “overbearing licensing conditions” for the event’s cancellation. Mooney, one of the festival’s volunteers claimed, “They didn’t want it to happen so they played their games. They couldn’t use legislation so instead they used dirty tactics.” Constant demands for a revised programme and increased security took its toll on festival financing and repeated delays led to the event’s disbandment. Commentators said the festival’s demise reflected a common trend in local authorities using bureaucracy to stultify new events.

USA: New legal protections for video artists

A landmark legal ruling has paved the way for re-instating artists and consumers’ legal rights to legitimate use of copyrighted materials in the USA. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) reported on its victory in winning three critical exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). EFF’s Civil Liberties Director, Jennifer Granick, commented, “We are thrilled to have helped free jailbreakers, unlockers and vidders from this law’s overbroad reach.” The DMCA has been heavily criticised for infringing on free speech, fair use and competition through blanket restrictions on how individuals use digital material. The ruling is particularly welcome for video artists, whose legitimate re-mixing of content could previously have led to being sued.

Columbia: Local hero sings banned ballads

According to the International Herald Tribune, Uriel Henao is known in Columbia as the King of Corridos Prohibidos or ‘prohibited ballads’. His brand of rock and roll describes the exploits of guerrilla commanders, paramilitary warlords, lowly coca growers and cocaine kingpins alongside Columbia’s government forces. It is a historical encapsulation of the country’s protracted drug wars, an ode to many who have fallen in a decade of bitter internal conflicts. Henao is the most prominent purveyor of a genre that encompasses more than 600 bands in Columbia. In spite of its popularity the music is often shunned by radio stations and concert arenas for its graphic depiction of the drug wars. The flamboyant Henao carries on regardless, stating, “Colombia needs people like me to tell it the truth about what takes place in this country,” he said. “The truth sells.”

New international coalition for arts and human rights

A new coalition is beginning to take shape to bring together people and organisations worldwide that are interested in the intersection of arts, culture, human rights and social justice. The vision of a stronger and closer relationship was just one of the decisions taken during a conference attended by ARTICLE 19 titled ‘Intersecting networks & support for people using creativity to fight injustice’ organised in July by freeDimensional, a group linking art spaces to social justice movements on a global level. ARTICLE 19 is now looking at how best we can support this exciting initiative. More to follow!

NOTES TO EDITORS:

• For more information: please contact Oliver Spencer, oliver@article19.org, +44 20 7324 2500 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting +44 20 7324 2500 end_of_the_skype_highlighting

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Appeal for urgent intervention as activists are tortured for speaking out

Take action!

Appeal for urgent intervention as activists are tortured for speaking out


Abdul-Jalil Al-Singace (left) protesting human rights violations.
Abdul-Jalil Al-Singace (left) protesting human rights violations.
BCHR

IFEX member Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) is urgently calling on concerned individuals to write to the Bahrain government to end the systematic torture and imprisonment of those expressing their views, including political, religious and human rights activists. Dr. Abdul-Jalil Al-Singace, Sheikh Mohammed Habib Al-Muqdad, Sheikh Saeed Al-Nori, Abdul-Ghani Khanjjar and BCHR's Dr. Mohammed Saeed are among those who have endured brutal physical and mental torture.


In an unprecedented wave of torture, detainees have been handcuffed, blindfolded, held in solitary cells, denied food and water for long periods, hung by their hands, their legs tied and their bodies beaten until swollen and bruised, deprived of sleep, and forced to listen to the screams of others being tortured.

BCHR strongly believes these arrests are connected to the activists' work in exposing human rights violations in the country. The Bahrain government is brutally silencing voices of dissent not only by prohibiting peaceful and legitimate activities related to democratic reform, but also by punishing human rights activists for engaging in these activities.

"They beat me on my fingers with a rigid instrument; they slapped me on my ears and I was pulled by my nipples and ears by tongs, and I was hit with a rigid object on my back... to force me to sign papers I had no knowledge of what was written on them," Al-Singace told a public prosecutor.

Bahrain is currently in an unofficial state of emergency with a security campaign launched against government critics. In addition, Shiite villages have been surrounded by militias, where arbitrary searches, arrests and kidnappings continue. At least 200 people have been detained. Most detainees are being held incommunicado and denied contact with lawyers and family members.

As well, state-owned media have published articles inciting sectarian tensions and smearing the reputation of the detainees, incriminating them before they are brought to the Public Prosecution and Court. The state-owned media, particularly "Al Watan", has been targeting the past and current presidents of BCHR directly as leaders in a so-called "terrorism network", although they have not been arrested. Nabeel Rajab, BCHR President, and Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, former BCHR President, were pictured in a 1 September "Al Watan" article about the violence.

The crackdown is also targeting online activists. Blogger Ali Abdulemam, who founded Bahrain's popular BahrainOnline forum, was arrested on 4 September for allegedly spreading "false news" on the BahrainOnline.org portal. His website was shut down the next day. He is a pioneer among Arab online activists and has inspired young Bahrainis and Arabs to use the Internet to engage in spirited debate. It is believed that by the government taking control of BahrainOnline, many of the users and contributors to the online forum are now at risk of being exposed and arrested.

Please write to the Bahrain government to ask them to:
- release all the detainees and especially human rights activists who have been arrested for practicing their fundamental rights to free expression and peaceful assembly;
- immediately stop the systematic torture by the National Security Apparatus, dissolve this Apparatus, bring those responsible to a public trial and redress the victims of its violations;
- allow access to the detainees by international observers;
- allow detainees to contact and meet their families and lawyers, and access appropriate health care;
- immediately stop implementing the Anti-Terrorist Law that allows arbitrary arrests and unjust trials.

Please send appeals to:
Sheikh Hamad bin Issa Al-Khalifa
King of Bahrain
Fax: +973 176 64 587

Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa
Prime Minister
Fax: +973 1753 2839

Sheikh Khalid Bin Ahmad Al-Khalifa
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Tel: +973 172 27 555 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting +973 172 27 555 end_of_the_skype_highlighting
Fax : +973 172 12 603

Sheikh Khalid bin Ali Al-Khalifa
Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs
Tel: +973 175 31 333 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting +973 175 31 333 end_of_the_skype_highlighting
Fax: +973 175 31 284

Permanent Mission of Bahrain to the United Nations in Geneva
1 chemin Jacques-Attenville
1218 Grand-Saconnex
CP 39, 1292 Chambésy, Switzerland
Fax: + 41 22 758 96 50.
info (@) bahrain-mission.ch

Please also write to diplomatic representations of Bahrain in your respective countries.

For more information, please visit:
Bahrain Center for Human Rights


Sample letter to country embassies in Bahrain


Sample letter to Bahrain embassy officials

Two media workers killed in bomb attack; journalist kidnapped and tortured

Two media workers killed in bomb attack; journalist kidnapped and tortured


A suicide bomber detonated explosives at a Shiite procession in Quetta, Pakistan on 3 September, triggering chaos, killing two media workers and injuring eight other journalists, report the Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). At least 64 people were killed and 185 injured. In a separate episode on 4 September in Islamabad, a journalist critical of the government was abducted and tortured.


Individuals at the Al-Quds rally, a protest in support of Palestinians, started firing in panic immediately after the blast. Angry protesters fired at media crews. Muhammad Sarwar, a driver for Aaj News TV, was struck by a bullet and died instantly. Aijaz Raisani, a cameraman for Samaa TV, was injured in the blast and also received two bullet wounds; he died on 6 September. Eight other reporters and cameramen were wounded. Journalists at the scene said some colleagues were wounded by the blast while others were injured by shots fired at them by demonstrators. There were also clashes with police and cars and motorcycles set on fire.

The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) pointed out that the media workers were not trained for a potentially lethal environment and no protective gear was given to them.

The next day, Umer Cheema, an investigative reporter for the English daily "The News", was kidnapped by 12 men wearing police uniforms in Islamabad. He was handcuffed and blindfolded, taken to an unknown place, stripped naked, beaten and hung upside down. The abductors warned him to stop writing about the government and threatened to target his colleague, editor Ansar Abbasi.

"The News" is highly critical of President Asif Ali Zardari and its journalists are often under attack, says RSF. The government has withdrawn state advertising from the entire Jang media group, which owns "The News".

Two targeted killings of journalists in two days; 230 journalists killed during Iraq War

Two targeted killings of journalists in two days; 230 journalists killed during Iraq War


Iraqi journalists continue to be killed with impunity even after US combat troops withdraw from Iraq. Journalist Riad Al-Saray was killed this week.
Iraqi journalists continue to be killed with impunity even after US combat troops withdraw from Iraq. Journalist Riad Al-Saray was killed this week.
ANHRI
Violence against journalists continues after the formal withdrawal of United States combat troops from Iraq in August. An Iraqi journalist was shot dead this week on his way to Karbala in southern Iraq when gunmen travelling in another car fired at him, report the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The next day, a television journalist was gunned down outside his home in Mosul. RSF has released a survey of media deaths during the US Army's presence in Iraq, "The Iraq War: A Heavy Death Toll for the Media".

Journalist Riad Al-Saray, 35, was killed in the early morning in western Baghdad on 7 September, according to local group Journalistic Freedoms Observatory (JFO) and IFEX members. "We are concerned that journalists are once again becoming easy prey in the renewed violence which has rocked Iraq in recent days," said IFJ.

Al-Saray was an anchorman for Al-Iraqiya television, which belongs to the Iraqi Media Network, and wrote columns for a number of local newspapers. He joined Al-Iraqiya in 2005 and hosted programmes that sought to reconcile Shiites and Sunnis. At least 14 other Iraqi Media Network journalists have been killed since 2003.

Then, on 8 September, Safaa Al-Dine Abdul Hameed, a presenter for Al-Mosuliyah TV station was killed as he left home for work.

Just weeks after the US Army's last combat brigade withdrew from Iraq in August, RSF issued a report examining the country's seven years of occupation by the coalition forces and the impact on press freedom. RSF focused on journalists who were killed during the conflict simply because they wanted to do their jobs, noting the impunity in 99 percent of the murders of journalists and media workers since the invasion in 2003.

RSF also re-examined the more than 93 cases of journalist abductions during the war; at least 42 were later executed. Iraqi journalists were also frequently suspected of collaborating with insurgent groups and arrested, either by the newly established Iraqi administration or the US Army.

RSF concludes, "Although the US intervention in Iraq put an end to Saddam Hussein's regime and paved the way for a major expansion of the Iraqi media, the human toll of the war, and the years of political and ethnic violence which followed, were nothing short of disastrous – too many people died."

The number of media contributors killed in the country since the conflict began stands at 230, more journalists killed than at any time since the Second World War. That is more than the number of journalists killed during 20 years of the Vietnam War or the civil war in Algeria.

Three Depressed terrorists

Three Depressed terrorists
Terrorism is inhuman act, an evil concept
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