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Increasing Hate Crimes against Journalists threaten Indian Democracy

Photo: Translation: ‘The government’s hand on the common man’s face’, Aseem Trivedi A rising tide of intolerance threatens journalists in India. The killing of a journalist is not just a crime but also a human rights abuse as it stifles free speech and freedom of expression. Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office in 2014, journalists have been facing greater threats from an increasingly polarized environment in India. From the death of Gauri Lankesh, a known critic of Hindu right-wing extremism, last September to the recent hate crimes against Barkha Dutt and Ravish Kumar, there is a lack of press freedom and a growing assault on constitutional and democratic values. Complementing the death threats are increased instances of online abuse. In the case of journalist Rana Ayyub, a pornographic video with her face superimposed on one of the actors was sent to her. The case reflects on the problem of sexism in Indian society where threats of sexual nature are used to shame and silence female journalists. “Islamist”, “Jihadi Jane,” and “ISIS sex slave” are some of the epithets which have been hurled at Ayyub as she is one of the few female Muslims who speaks out against an alleged Hindu nationalist government. While some journalists, like Barkha Dutt, have been able to afford enhanced security and get their houses debugged, many local and less affluent journalists face increased death threats while uncovering cases of corruption and local crime. Correspondingly, India’s ranking in the Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index 2018 has fallen two places since last year to 138th, augmenting the problem is the increased impunity of these...

Georgian Prime Minister Resigns Amidst Protests Against Corruption

Photo: Protest leader Zaza Saralidze speaks to demonstrators and journalists. Source: RadioFreeEuropeRadioLiberty Georgia’s Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili resigned on Wednesday following several weeks of popular protest and political disagreements with Georgia’s ruling party, Georgian Dream. Kvirikashvili has been prime minister since 2015. Kvirikashvili stepped down in the midst of other resignations by global officials following protests condemning government corruption. On April 23 Armenian Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan resigned after 11 days of popular protest, as did Jordanian Prime Minister Hani al-Mulki on June 4. The protests began on May 31st in reaction to the killing of two teenagers in December and the allegedly improper sentencing of their killers. According to protest leader Zaza Saralidze, whose son was one of December’s victims, the two subjects put on trial for his son’s death were not the real culprits, and those truly responsible escaped prosecution because of their relatives who worked in the Prosecutor-General’s Office. Protesters originally called for the resignation of chief prosecutor Irakli Shotadze; however, their demands grew into broader calls against government corruption after Shotadze’s resignation. On June 11, police dismantled protestor tents and detained several members of the political opposition. Saralidze’s protests follow earlier demonstrations in May against excessive force used by police in anti-drug raids at nightclubs in Tbilisi. In his resignation speech, Kvirikashvili stated that “we had a number of fundamental disagreements with the party’s leader” Bidzina Ivanishvili, who is the richest man in Georgia.   Kvirikashvili went on to state that “today is the moment when the party’s chairman should have the opportunity to form a team on the basis of his own views.” According to...

Death of Palestinian Medic Sparks Outrage and Investigations

Photo: Razan al-Najar’s blood-stained white tunic was carried by mourners. Source: AFP.   The death of 21-year-old Palestinian medic Razan al-Najar in Gaza has prompted international outcry and an investigation by Israeli officials. Al-Najar had been shot by Israeli Security forces as she approached the border fence separating the Gaza Strip from Israel on June 1st.  Her death comes as hundreds of Palestinian protesters have been killed by the Israeli military near the border in a recent round of protests. Al-Najar’s funeral procession on June 2nd drew thousands of Palestinians, including uniformed medical workers, who are in high demand after thousands have been injured or killed since protests began in March. On Saturday, the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator released a statement condemning the death of al-Najar. Three days later, Israel’s military issued a statement on Twitter calling her death unintentional and stating that “no shots were deliberately aimed at her”. A follow-up tweet stated that there will be an additional investigation. The current series of protests in Palestine began in March, pushing for the end of an 11-year blockade of Gaza. Israel claims that these protests are staged by members of the Islamist group Hamas as a way to promote attacks against Israel by using women and children to storm the border fence. As of June 5th, Israeli Security forces along the border have killed more than 115 Palestinian protesters. Although the international community has decried this excessive use of force, the United States vetoed a Security Council resolution on June 1st  that condemns Israel’s actions. The Trump Administration blames the protests on Hamas. Furthermore, Al-Najar’s death comes more than...

What you need to know about Zimbabwe’s upcoming elections

Photo: Opposition MDC supporters wave flags at a rally to launch their election campaign in Harare, Zimbabwe, Jan. 21, 2018. VoA. Associated Press. On Wednesday, Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced that the country is to hold presidential and parliamentary elections on July 30th. In less than two months, Zimbabwean citizens will have the opportunity to vote, in the first elections since the ousting of Robert Mugabe in November last year. What do you need to know about the upcoming elections?   Legitimacy For current President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the 2018 elections are mostly about legitimizing his presidency. Following the November 2018 coup, in which the military leadership installed the former vice-President as the country’s new leader, Mnangagwa needs democratic confirmation through the ballot. Mnangagwa has invited Commonwealth election personnel to monitor voting in Zimbabwe for the first time since 2002, when Harare was suspended from the group over accusations of rigged elections. Experts claim that, if qualified as free and fair, the July-elections could be an important step in bringing foreign investors back to the southern African country after a decade of economic decline. Nevertheless, there are grave concerns about several aspects of the upcoming elections. Despite Mnangagwa’s narrative of free and fair elections, many still fear rigging. This is not without a reason. A little over a week ago, deputy Minister of Finance Terrence Mukupe made a controversial statement during a ZANU-PF meeting, claiming that those who were behind the military intervention to oust Mugabe will never let MDC-T leader Chamisa take over if he wins the elections. The electoral Act still does not allow Zimbabweans who live outside the country to...

Kidnapping and Murder of Ecuadorian Journalists Just One Facet of Declining Free Press

Photo: Colombian journalists gather in front of Ecuador’s embassy to protest against the murder of the media team, holding signs reading “We Are Missing Three” in Spanish. Reuters. On April 13, a team of three Ecuadorian journalists was confirmed dead on the border between Ecuador and Colombia. They were reporting on the activities of rebel narco groups, who generally don’t appreciate being scrutinized, and were kidnapped on March 26 by the Oliver Sinisterra Front. The International Committee of the Red Cross retrieved the bodies, responding to a request for assistance from both Colombian and Ecuadorian authorities. Across Ecuador, citizens held vigils and criticized the government for its handling of the situation. Journalists gathered in front of the presidential palace in Quito every day following the kidnapping, chanting “We’re missing three! We want them back alive!” and demanding the government take action to retrieve them. The day after the deaths were confirmed, the protesters changed their shouts to “You did nothing!” Media actors such as Colombia’s Foundation for Press Liberty have denounced the passivity of the Colombian and Ecuadorian government in protecting the lives of the reporters. Major news outlets held blackouts as a sign of mourning for their colleagues and journalists of Cartagena collected at a martyrs’ monument to protest the murders. Ronald Rodriguez, spokesperson for the Bolivar Journalists Association, reminds “everyone that our profession is a neutral one that does not take sides, so we demand that we be excluded from the armed conflict, and we reiterate to the governments of Colombia and Ecuador that they are responsible for our safety in practicing our profession.” The 2017 Freedom House...

#SOSNicaragua – Is the Ortega Murillo Dynasty Crumbling ?

Photo: Nicaraguans protest against reforms to social security. EFE. The last five day’s protests have led to the death of at least 26 people, according to human rights groups. 46 people have been reported missing, and hundreds have been injured, shot by snipers, by police with rubber bullets, or beaten by pro-Sandinista protesters. The protests may have started in response to president Ortega’s recent changes to the social security system, which will increase income and payroll taxes and reform the pension system, but the uprisings are likely to continue as a means of expressing the population’s discontent with the government and their repressive politics. As the government ordered the shutdown of five independent TV channels covering the situation, the protests spread to León, Estelí, Masaya and other cities throughout the country on Thursday. Reports and footage have shown several reporters being beaten, robbed, verbally threatened, and having their expensive camera equipment stolen by violent pro-government protesters. Among those killed was Ángel Gahona, a journalist who was shot dead while broadcasting live via Facebook in Bluefields. Amnesty International called the attacks on peaceful protesters and journalists a “disturbing attempt to curtail their rights to freedom of expression and assembly.” President Ortega was first elected president in 1984 and is currently serving his third consecutive term of presidency. He’s a former left-wing guerilla officer and therefore keeps close control of the country’s military and national police. On its path to the presidency, and as a method of retaining power, the Ortega Murillo government also relies heavily on support from the Catholic church, another of their main pillars of support. The ever-increasing...