‘La Jungla’, después de la batalla

Europe

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El desmantelamiento de parte del campamento de refugiados en Calais (Francia) se percibe, nada más poner un pie en el embarrado descampado, por el olor a chamusquina de las chabolas devoradas por las llamas después de los primeros altercados con la policía, y por el ruido de las palancas y sierras que los operarios utilizan para tirar abajo las cabañas.

Cada día desde primera hora de la mañana, trabajadores de la Oficina Francesa de Migración e Integración (OFFI) y de la Prefectura acuden al asentamiento guiados con un mapa que disecciona la zona sur de ‘La Jungla’, apodo con el que se conoce a este lugar, en pequeños pedacitos para ver qué zona toca desmantelar. En esta ocasión, se trata del refugio de una familia iraní que se sube al techo de su chabola con mantas para evitar el desalojo. La policía rodea la zona y espera que la familia desista en su intento. Al día siguiente, no hay rastro de su cabaña.

Médicos Sin Fronteras (MSF) apunta que muchos inmigrantes se están marchando a otros campamentos cercanos que “están en peores condiciones” en la costa entre Calais y Dunkerque, 44 km de distancia. Se teme que se destruya una ‘jungla’ pero se reproduzca en otros sitios. “Los desalojos no solucionarán la crisis de los refugiados sino que el problema se extenderá a otros puntos de Francia”, alerta Pascal Frohely de la ONG francesa Secours Catholique.

Una de las opciones que ofrecen las autoridades francesas a los afectados es mudarse a contenedores prefabricados, instalados en una zona del campamento con capacidad para 1.500 personas. En una de estas caravanas metálicas vive ahora Abdalá con su hijo y 10 personas más. “Las condiciones no son buenas porque aquí sólo podemos dormir. No nos dejan cocinar, no hay duchas y los servicios son insuficientes”, se queja este afgano mientras se lava los dientes con una botella de agua.

El recinto no cuenta con ningún punto de agua pero sí con fuertes medidas de seguridad. “Es como una prisión. La zona está cercada con vallas y controlada por agentes y cámaras 24 horas”, explica Pierre Calina de MSF.

Muchos de los refugiados se niegan a vivir en estos contenedores no sólo por sus carencias básicas sino porque para entrar y salir del recinto se les piden sus huellas dactilares como método de identificación y temen que si consiguen saltar a Reino Unido, las autoridades británicas los devolverán a Francia por estar registrados.

Las lonas de casi todas las chabolas tienen grafitis reivindicativos siendo el más repetido We just want to go to England” (Sólo queremos ir a Inglaterra). La mayoría de los habitantes de ‘La Jungla’ viven en el campamento porque su objetivo es llegar a Reino Unido, y Calais es la puerta de entrada desde donde intentar pasar escondidos en camiones que cruzan diariamente el canal de la Mancha en ferries y trenes por el Eurotunnel.

Al final del día, los autobuses fletados por el gobierno francés se marchan casi vacíos del asentamiento tras esperar a ver cuántos refugiados aceptan subirse para ser llevados a otros centros de acogida, repartidos por el país en ciudades como Montpellier o Toulouse a más de 900 km de Calais.

Kamal no tiene tiempo para viajes. Llegó hace tres meses y está inmerso en la construcción de una chabola en la zona norte de ‘La Jungla’. “Tengo una cabaña en la parte sur pero creo que en una semana van a derribarla así que tengo que estar preparado”, dice.

Kamal se pasa toda la mañana llevando palés de madera con una carretilla al nuevo terreno que tiene cercado y listo para construir. Cuando llegó a Calais levantó su primera cabaña convirtiendo un trozo de lodazal en un refugio bien armado y aislado. Tiene hasta un ciervo de plástico en miniatura que cuelga de una de las paredes como decoración, además de contar con una cocina camping gas, asientos de madera y una estufa casera fabricada con un barril.

“No voy a abandonar ahora que sólo queda hacer un pequeño esfuerzo para llegar a Reino Unido”, comenta Kamal. Su viaje hasta Calais lo empezó hace tres años cuando tuvo que huir de Sudán. Cruzó la frontera con Chad sobornando a unos soldados con 500 dólares, después llegó a Libia donde pagó a traficantes 600 para llevarlo a Siria, 200 para llegar a Turquía y 1.000 para cruzar en barco a las islas griegas. “Aquí me quedé sin dinero pero conseguí un trabajo en negro durante un año hasta que ahorré para venir a Calais”, recuerda Kamal.

La situación se ha tensado tanto en esta primera semana de desahucios que 10 iraníes se han cosido los labios y puesto en huelga de hambre, pocas horas después de que sus chabolas fueran destruidas. Aseguran que mantendrán la protesta hasta que se paren los desalojos y piden que un representante de la Oficina de Derechos Humanos de Naciones Unidas visite el campamento.

Los mensajes y conversaciones de los habitantes de La Jungla se han vuelto más duras y críticas con su actual país de acogida. “Pensé que Francia era un país de libertad, igualdad y fraternidad pero ¿qué ha quedado de los principios de la Revolución Francesa?”, se pregunta uno de ellos.

Mientras el día a día sigue en este campamento, se escucha la llamada al rezo para los musulmanes, las tiendas siguen con sus negocios al mismo tiempo que los equipos de limpieza continúan trabajando para derribar a mano chabola a chabola. Uno de los refugiados que contempla a los operarios hace la pregunta que está en boca de todos estos días: “¿es este el final de ‘La Jungla’?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March For England Embraces Brighton

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Screen shot 2014-05-08 at 11.06.02Every year on the first Sunday after St George´s Day (23 April), the March for England takes place in Brighton. Some people mark it in the calendar as a celebration of English patriotism, others cross it as a racist and fascist event.

It brings to the city, nationalists from across England to march, local anti-racists and anti-fascists groups to counter-protest and the security forces from all around the country to keep both groups apart and avoid violent clashes.

This year, about 200 people have taken part in the main nationalist march and between 400 to 500 counter-protesters have turned out to oppose them, welcoming them with the musical rhythm of Black is Black and several banners saying ‘Racists are not welcome here.’

One of those banners is held by a young girl on the seafront, who prefers not to be named. She says without taking her eyes off the march, “everything they say about being not racist or facist, is a complete lie. You can look at what they write on Internet and forums. This is just a front for their very racist and violent groups. They are not welcome in Brighton and they come here purely to rile people because they know this is a multicultural and liberal city.”

A few meters from where the girl stands, Mark Able hands out flyers against the march and copies of the Socialist Worker newspaper. He defines the event as “a horrible, racist and facist march that we keep having to put up with every year in Brighton even though very few Brighton people, if any, want it here. They come down and try to intimidate people but we always get a good turn out of anti-fascists and anti-racists.

John, who takes part in the march wearing a St George’s Cross flag as a cape, opposes and rejects all that has been said above. He explains, “the March for England is a day to highlight traditional values, cultural heritage and to remember the past. It is a celebration day”.

However, there doesn’t seem to be much joy and celebration. Hundreds of security personnel confine the nationalists inside a line of police, then police vans, and mounted policemen create another circle and finally, barriers are displayed along the seafront to separate both groups as much apart as possible.

Michelle Banks, all dressed up in white and red colours, says “I come down to Brighton from Somerset every year and used to do it with my kids, but not anymore as the confrontation has become worse”.

When asked, why not march somewhere else where they could do so without such opposition she responds, “the opposition we find makes me to want to come to Brighton even more. It is a free country and it is our right.”

In the city there is general consensus to reject this march. The main parties in the city held a meeting weeks before the event took place calling to ban or move the march somewhere else. Their message was clear. ”Please, don´t come here. It is not about politics. Your union does not represent our city and you are causing trouble”, affirms Lianne De Mello, from the Green Party.

Parties and community groups state that the march only causes problems for residents, intimidating the diverse communities of Brighton, disruptions for tourists, businesses and public transport, as the march takes place in the city centre. Last year, the police operation alone cost £500,000.

The stand that the police have taken is to maintain the same route as previous years. “The police keep them confined to one place in order to control them and limit the amount of trouble that can be caused. They march and then they head back to the train station and leave the city at the end of the day until the next year”, concludes De Mello.

 

 

 

 

 

‘Promesas de Tierra’, música que no entiende de conflictos

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Músicos de Promesas de Tierra

El sonido del qanun que toca el palestino Ali Amr se mezcla con la melodía de la flauta dulce de la israelí Tali Rubinstein y el violín del jordano Layth Al-Rubaye. Unos segundos más tarde se unen los sonidos de la guitarra española y el zapateao flamenco. El resultado es ‘Promesas de Tierra’, un disco que no entiende de fronteras, en el que se fusionan la cultura sefardita, cristiana y andalusí.

Músicos de Jordania, España, Israel y Palestina, que fueron o son todavía alumnos en la prestigiosa Escuela de Música de Berklee, se han reunido bajo la batuta de Javier Limón, productor de discos como Lágrimas negras, y director artístico del Instituto Mediterráneo de Música en Berklee.

Es un proyecto que abre la ventana a una nueva propuesta sonora, que se apoya en la diversidad cultural. “Mientras los judíos aportan la organizacion, el arreglo y la armonía, los palestinos aportan lo contrario, la improvisación y la melodía. Es bonito y curioso juntar estas dos culturas, una tan dedicada y respetuosa con lo que se ha pactado como la sefardí, y otra tan loca y dada a la improvisación como la árabe”, explica Limón desde Republica Dominicana donde se encuentra impartiendo una clase magistral.

‘Promesas de Tierra’ ha dado la oportunidad de ver una imagen no muy frecuente, israelís y palestinos tocando juntos. El productor español afirma “estos chicos empiezan a ser de las primeras generaciones liberadas de los prejuicios que tanto alejan a sus predecesores”.

Entre este grupo de músicos destaca Ali Amr, joven palestino que empezó a tocar el qanun a los seis años, mostrando a una edad temprana su virtuosidad con este instrumento y con el cante. Ha viajado por todo el mundo con su música, pero este disco le ha brindado una oportunidad única. “En Palestina, nunca podemos tocar con músicos de Israel debido al problema político. Este ha sido uno de los pocos proyectos que me han permitido tocar con ellos”, explica Amr.

Tali Rubinstein también empezó a tocar a una edad temprana, 12 años. Durante el servicio militar, obligatorio para hombres y mujeres en Israel, continuó su pasión por la música.y formó parte de la banda musical de la Fuerza Aérea.

Rubinstein cuenta que fue un poco raro al principio tocar con alguien de Palestina, “nunca antes había tocado con un palestino. No había tenido la oportunidad ni si quiera de conocer a ninguno hasta que llegué a Boston para estudiar en la escuela de música. Y esto me hizo pensar qué extraño que somos de la misma región pero nunca había conocido a nadie de allí. Entiendo el porqué pero fue extraño que no hubiera pasado antes”.

Limón afirma que muchas veces la mejor música es resultado de un gran dolor, “hoy en día, algunos de los mejores músicos provienen de Oriente Próximo, una de las partes del mundo más conflictiva”.

Promesas de Tierra es un proyecto que muestra que la música no entiende de conflictos  y que, en cambio, ayuda a construir puentes entre pueblos enfrentados.

Como recita la caratula del álbum, “estos chicos son las promesas de una tierra prometida”.

“It is easier to be a journalist in Syria than in Egypt”

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The number of reports of arrests, harassment, detention and prosecution of national and international journalists in Egypt, as well as, violent attacks, has increased considerably in recent months. Therefore some could argue that media has become one of the main targets of the Egyptian government.

“The latest salvo in a propaganda campaign by the state-run and pro-military news media” in Egypt is a leaked video showing the arrest of two journalists in December 2013, reports The New York Times concluding that “the goal is to paint the arrested journalists as part of a terrorist conspiracy”. Both journalists shown in the video are established correspondents who were working for the English language affiliate of Al Jazeera.

Peter Greste, is one of Al-Jazeera journalists detained on suspicion of broadcasting false news in the service of the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood. He sent a letter from prison asking “how you do accurately and fairly report on Egypt’s ongoing political struggle without talking to everyone involved. (…) The state will not tolerate hearing from the Muslim Brotherhood or any other critical voices. The prisons are overflowing with anyone who opposes or challenges the government.”

Many professional associations and media outlets such as CNN, BBC, Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) and others, have condemned the arrests and called the Egyptian government to put an end to their “arbitrary imprisonment” of journalists that are seen as spies or supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood.

“Egyptians see a journalist as a traitor, someone who has an agenda and plot to destroy the country. The situation has deteriorated to the point that walking in the street with a camera is one of the most dangerous things”, explains Sergi Cabeza, a Spanish freelance journalist who has covered the Egyptian revolution since its beginning, during an interview.

Journalists working in Cairo denounce the hostility and violent attacks they suffer not only from the security forces, but increasingly from civilians. Sharif Abdel Kouddous, correspondent for Democracy Now in Egypt, tells the story of an Italian journalist friend who was “surrounded by an angry mob that set upon him with fists and sticks after a man began screaming that he was a member of Al Jazeera”.

Cabeza says, “it is easier to work as a journalist in Syria than in Egypt, at least it was before journalists faced to be kidnap.” He explains, “in Syria, the threat is a bomb, but you can walk in the street with a camera and you can interview anyone without being attacked. However, in Egypt you face huge hostility from the society.”

The government and its supporters say foreign media are distorting the situation in Egypt, which they argue is on the path to democracy. The Egyptian authorities have always sent the message that they seek a broad consensus, hearing and representing all the voices of society, in particular since they deposed Mohamed Morsi from the presidency last summer.

But the reports from Egypt claim that even tourists who take a picture of the Nile can be taken to the local police station because someone has confused them with journalists and reported them to the Egyptian authorities.

These incidents are just some among many that journalists in Cairo can tell. Kouddous says that these acts against media professionals “are direct result of a state-sponsored vilification campaign against journalists in general, and Al Jazeera in particulars.”

With the new anti-terrorist law, journalists are now prohibited from having or disseminating Muslim Brotherhood publications or recordings and face a possible five-year jail sentence if they violate the ban. “This prohibition and the arbitrary arrests of media personnel constitute grave threats to freedom of information in Egypt,” affirms Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

Media professionals asked the Egyptian Minister of Information if interviewing a member of the Muslim Brotherhood would be considered a crime but they have not received a clear answer, although some examples incline the scale to an affirmative answer. A Dutch Journalist fled Egypt after she was accused of “fabricating news” and being member of a terrorist plot, reports The Guardian. She states that she was targeted because of meeting Aljazeera journalists in Cairo.

Where the country is heading is not very optimistic. Cairo Institute for Human Rights reports that during the referendum coverage in January the Egyptian media “have stigmatised those who hold opinions that differ from their own” and “deliberately abandoned standards of diversity and balance, choosing instead to wholeheartedly support and leaving no space for opposition or ambivalent voices.”

The Egyptian regime has silenced those voices that are critical and dissident and allowed only those that support its actions. These practices towards media and journalists remind of the ones used in another conflicts such as Yugoslavia, where divisions in society aggravated and moderate and minority voices were excluded. Cabeza defines that the current situation is seen by the Egyptian regime as a picture in black and white, “either you are with us or you are against us.”

Article published on Media Diversity Institute

Egyptian regime accused of crimes against humanity at The Hague

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Protest in EgyptMore than 3,000 km away from Tahrir Square, a testimony  from a witness of a protest in Cairo was being read out. “I saw the bulldozer run over 20 or 30 people. I was shouting and screaming telling the police to stop. The bulldozer did not stop (…) The policemen were shooting into a crowd of hundreds of people. We all started running away in a massive panic. I saw many people  getting injured. I saw many people  getting shot at this time”.

This is an extract from one of the testimonies that a group of lawyers have submitted to the International Criminal Court (ICC) as evidences to accuse the Egyptian regime of crimes against humanity.

Tayab Ali, who is one of the lawyers that leads the case, explained during a press conference in London that they accuse the military regime of “murder, unlawful imprisonment, torture, persecution against an identifiable group and enforced dsappearece of persons”.

In total, they have verified 1.120 people killed since the military coup on 3rd July 2013 but they are in the process of investigating more killings so it is expected a higher number.

The international team of lawyers called for the ICC to investigate allegations of widespread and systematic acts against civilians. “If the state does nothing, then the ICC will exercise its jurisdition to show that there is not a gap that perpetrators can slip out of. Impunity will not rein”, said the lawyer Rodney Dixon.

The complaint presented to the ICC identifies individuals from the Egyptian regime accused of these acts, but their names have not been realised to the public.

It is unclear how far they will be able to go with this accusation as Egypt does not recognise ICC jurisdiction.  The team stated that the ICC can act if it receives a declaration from the government. They state that Morsi government  remains the lawful and democratically elected government of Egypt and they have issued that declaration to permit ICC to investigate.

The lawyers also stated that all different parties involved could be investigated. “It is not limited to a particular group. It is for the prosecutor to decide who  will investigate and it is posible that the jurisdiction could extend before the start of the coup”, stated Dixon.

While back in Egypt, the gap within the Egyptian society keeps widening. Some collect firms for General Abdulfattah al-Sisi to run for presidency while others call for the restablishment of Mohammed Morsi as a President, who in a few weeks will go on trial.

Brighton: the heart of independent and alternative shopping in the UK

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North Laine

‘Bizarre’, ‘quirky’ and ‘unique’ are the most common words heard in Upper Gardner Street when sellers describe what they have on display in the flea market in Brighton.

Passers-by can purchase wares from French 1895 vintage fabric to Victorian antiques. A 110-year-old clock, an 80-year-old wooden golf club and a shooting stick are some of the items on sale at John Magee’s stall.

John is one of the longest-standing sellers at this market, coming every weekend since he was a schoolboy. “It used to be much more crowded decades ago. Even during the Second World War, we still managed to sell stuff but when the war ended it got much better as people needed to buy many things”, John remembers. He is now 90 years old and still comes every Saturday to accompany his son who has taken over the business.

This flea market is located in the heart of the North Laine of Brighton; an area that “used to be narrow strips of farmland that was worth nothing. But today it has turned into a vibrant area with independent shops that you cannot find in another town”, explains the chair of North Laine Traders Association, David Sewell.

In the mile between Brighton Station and the Royal Pavilion Palace, there are more than 200 shops and 30 cafes; most of them locally run by their owners.

One of them is ‘Vegetarian Shoes’; a local shop that produces and sells the usual stuff as snow boots, trainers and sandals, but without using any animal material.

Christopher, who has worked at the shop for two years, says, “Brighton has an important veggie and vegan community. In the North Laine, there are 6 vegetarian cafes, a vegetarian supermarket and our veggie shop. We have many customers who come from across the country and Europe to shop here.”

A few metres down the street, there is another shop called ‘Cyber Candy’ that imports sweets from around the world to be sold in the UK. Among the sweets they sell there are South Korean cereal boxes and space freeze-dried strawberries, but its star product is the cheese and bacon crickets from California.

Ben Caton a regular customer of Cyber Candy explains, “there are things that you cannot find in the high street but only in Brighton where they have very creative, alternative and quirky stuff.”

‘Another night on Earth’ – a film about Egypt through conversations in taxis

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One of the things that characterises Cairo is its chaotic traffic and the constant noise of taxis’ horns as they try to snake through the streets. The taxis and Cairo are exactly where the film ‘Another Night on Earth’ takes place.

A taxi, a driver and passenger are the three main elements of this film that tells the story of ordinary Egyptians debating and arguing about the present and future of the country since the Revolution.  An uprising, that continues more alive than ever after the last protests that let the army to take over, ousts the President, Mohammed Morsi, and dissolves the Parliament.

The film captures the opinions of the passengers through conversations in taxis.  The director of the film, David Muñoz, chose this way to tell the story because “Egyptians spend so much time in taxis due to traffic jams and the taxis are private spaces that allow people to talk calmly with strangers”.

Despite the film being shot from May to September 2011, the same dialogues can be heard today in the streets of Egypt. One of the passengers stated, “If there is a new president and he makes a new constitution, and we are not convinced, we will carry on the protests. If there is no change, we will force him to resign”.

Another passenger asked, “Where is the revolution? This is not a revolution. Revolution means change at all levels and we are still the way we were at the start, or worse”.

Muñoz affirms, “there is a clear need for change embedded in the people that is irreversible. Everything that I recorded in 2011, I see  today. The problems they had in 2011, they still have in 2013”.

He shot 70 journeys where all kinds of people got into the taxis, including big families, women, children and men. They all talked about different topics, ranging from politics to social problems such as unemployment, education and health.

During one of the journeys, the taxi driver argues with two Muslim women about the protests in Tahrir Square.  While the driver criticised the impatience of the protesters that cannot wait for results, the women defended them – “Nobody wants to wait now, they want it all now, because of the lies and deception they have seen since birth. They never do what they say”.

Religion is also addressed in the film. A woman and a driver discussed the possibility of an Islamist government, forcing women to wear the hijab on the streets. The passenger highlights the right to choose and he thinks of his daughter as an example. “She is the one who has to decide if she wants to wear it or not. The normal thing is for everyone to make up their own minds”.

The 52- minute documentary focusses on the problems of ordinary Egyptians and stays away from the mainstream media discourse. Muñoz found himself fascinated by the Egyptian people “who are very extrovert and brave, who do not close their mouths, and who say what they think without second thoughts or fears which we have assimilated in the West”.

Article published on yourmiddleeast.com

Sexual harassment: a constant in Egyptian women’s life

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Image“Their hands were all over my body and up and under my destroyed clothes. Again, my pants and underwear were pulled down violently and several men, at the same time, raped me with their fingers”. This is part of a testimony of a victim that was raped during the protests in Tahrir Square in June 2012. It is one of more than 20 stories that Egyptian human rights organisations have compiled from victims and witnesses from 2011 to 2013.

The testimonies tell a similar story each time: hundreds of men surrounding the victim and tearing-off clothes, veils and underwear to touch her violently and, in the worst cases, to rape her with their fingers and even sharp objects.

Sexual harassment, either verbal or physical, has become rife in Egypt, in particular, in the heart of the Cairo protests – Tahrir Square. Over 100 cases of sexual assault were reported during the last demonstrations that let the army take over and depose the president, Muhammad Morsi.

These numbers highlight the failure of the government and political institutions to address violence against women in Egypt. “No one had ever been accountable for what happens in Tahrir Square or during demonstrations. For example, in January 2013, cases were documented but there was no reaction from the government, no investigations were opened. People know that whatever happens in the square, there will never be any accountability for it”, explains Masa Amir, a researcher at Nazra Feminist Studies in Cairo.

Sexual harassment is an epidemic in the country, as is reflected in a UN Women study that reported that 99.3% of women in Egypt have suffered one form of sexual harassment or another; the majority saying to have been touched.

Amir denounces the inaction of the political institutions that “rather to address the issue, they use it as a political tool against the opposition”. She gives the example of Essam Al-Haddad, Assistant to the former President on Foreign Relations and International Cooperation, who drew a line between the two demonstrations on 29th June to conclude that the assaults indicate that the “crowds in Tahrir are out of control”.

The ones who are addressing the issue in Egypt are mainly individuals and civil societies who have launched grassroots initiatives to support women and raise awareness of violence against women.

For example the ‘HarassMap’ is an online initiative for victims and witnesses all over Egypt to anonymously share their experiences of harassment, and to report it through mobile phones and social media. The map collects all reports with information that tells the user what kind of harassment was and where it happened.

There is also the initiative of the Tahrir Bodyguards – volunteers that can be recognised by their yellow helmets and neon vests during the protests. They try to prevent sexual harassment while women are in the streets protesting.

A cartoon has also been created. It is Superrmakh – an Egyptian superhero, inspired by Superman cartoons, who helps women and girls stop their harassers.

With this initiative, Ahmed Makhloufto, the creator of Supermakh, wanted to break a taboo within Egyptian society by talking openly about sexual harassment and highlighting the pretexts and other factors that allow for it to continue.

The figures provided on sexual harassment in Egypt may be even higher as many cases remain unreported. The UN Women’s report stated that only 0.3 of women who were harassed contacted the police.

In Egypt, denouncing the harasser is a challenge for the victim as the police tend to convince the women not to pursue it further. “The police usually say it is ok, nothing really happened. Why do you want to get this man into trouble? And even if they document what happened, it is not treated urgently. The survivors often think that if they go to the police, they will be put under a lot of stress, no investigation will take place and nothing will come out of it”, confirms Amir.

The victims face a culture of impunity, denial and inaction regarding sexual harassment in a country where there is also a social wall to overcome. “The victims need a very supportive family and to be strong enough to speak out because our society tends to blame the girls for being harassed. They cannot tell their father or brother because she will be blamed. They usually say: you may have done something wrong or worn something that was not decent. And if they don’t blame her, they tell her not to talk about it because it will bring shame and disgrace to the family”, explains Nada Nashat from Centre for Egyptian Women Legal Assistance (ECWRA).

Despite all the obstacles, Nashat affirms that the number of women who speak out and report the harassment has increased. Another testimony of a victim of sexual harassment concluded, “we will not be frightened; we will not hide in our homes”.

Protests in Turkey show Erdogan’s Control over Mainstream Media

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penguins CNN

While one of the biggest protests was taking place in Istanbul in decades, the mainstream media turned a blind eye to reporting what was happening in the streets. The major TV channels such as CNN Turk and NTV chose to broadcast a cooking program or a documentary about penguins, instead of showing images of the clashes during which the police used brutal force, and teargas on peaceful protesters that were trying to stop the  demolition of  Gezi Park.

The mainstream media failed to report on the initial events and fueled the anger of many Turks who questioned the media blackout.

Emre Caliskan, a Turkish freelance journalist, points out one of the main reasons, “the majority of media companies have investments in other sectors and they are afraid to lose their contracts and be in the blacklist of the government”.

The media outlets in Turkey are owned by large conglomerates with interests in other sectors such as construction, energy, finance and tourism, as the study ‘Caught in the Wheels of Power’ published by TESEV states.

“Media owners were extremely dependent on the clientelist relations with the state which enabled them to acquire tenders to undertake massive projects financed by the public. This has prevented these companies from performing the watchdog function expected from the media in established democracies”, concluded the study.

Dr. Ceren Sözeri, co-author of TESEV report and professor at Galatasary University, gives an example of the close relationship between media owners and government. “A few weeks ago, Ferit Şahenk who owns Dogus Media, one of the biggest media groups in the country, took a big public procurement from the government, a new port for Istanbul called Galataport. As Prime Minister mentions, Şahenk always says that “Thank you my Prime Minister we have expanded thanks to you”, states Ceren.

One of his channels is NTV, whose chief editor resigned and apologised for the failure to inform the public about the protests. The protesters burnt out one of NTV’s news van which stands now as a symbol at Taksim square.

Self-censorship is a common phenomenon in the Turkish media that affects in particular journalists and reporters who fear to be fired. The European Commission has reported that several journalists have lost their jobs for writing articles openly critical of the government.

“The government interpretation of freedom of speech is becoming sharper and sharper by time. If you do not share the agenda, discourse and views of the government, then you do not have space in the media to express them”, affirms Emre.

Turkey was placed near the bottom (154 of 179 countries) of the World Press Freedom index and labelled the world’s biggest prison for journalists last year by Reporters without Borders.

Some TV channels did broadcast the Gezi protest images, such as Halk TV which belongs to the opposition political party (CHP). However, the Turkish public watchdog has fined these channels for “harming the physical, moral and mental development of children and young people” by broadcasting coverage of the Gezi Park protests.

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In this case, as in the Arab protests, social media has shown to be the key channel used to report and find out what was happening in Turkey.

“The social media was very useful since the beginning. After the first attack we shared information about “where the police is”, “which way is safe” and “where to reunite”. In the first 5-6 days the news about Gezi park were only in the social media”, explains Ufuk Tanişan, who has been protesting in Gezi Park every day.

On the first night, more than 3,000 tweets per minute were sent about the protests, according to a study by New York University’s Social Media and Political Participation Laboratory.

The great influence of social media was also shown when a campaign was launched on Twitter to raise money for a full-page ad to call for support in The New York Times. More than $50,000 was collected in 21 hours and the ad was published in the newspaper on 7th June.

The discourse of the government has been very critical towards social media. Erdogan defined it as “the biggest menace to society” and protesters were detained for posting “misinformation” via Twitter.

People in Turkey have turned to social media, and alternative and independent sources to inform themselves, such as Bianet, an activist media organisation with a version in English, and  What is happening in Istanbul?, a website that was created by a group of activists in Gezi. This website aims “to provide up to date and verified information on the events in Istanbul as the majority of Turkish mainstream media continues to either ignore the mass movement that we’re witnessing on the streets of Istanbul, or distort the facts”.

Ceren highlights that “one of the positive gains of the Gezi resistance is that people are more conscious about the media in the country and that small and independent media outlets will gain more importance in the near future”.

Article published at Media Diversity Institute

How to Report on Refugees and Migration?

Europe, Uncategorized

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2012 has registered the highest number of refugees and internally displaced people than at any time since 1994, according to the latest data published today by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). They report that more than 45 million people were displayed last year.

The coming Refugee Day, 20th June, has led to an increase in the number of articles in the media covering this topic, especially due to the conflict in Syria, which has emerged as a major new factor in global displacement.

Several official studies and reports have addressed the question of how to report on refugees and migration and analysed the mistakes that journalists make when they cover this issue.

For example, one of the bad practises among the media is that “little coverage is given to the human rights abuses and conflicts that force people to flee their homes, yet providing this global context would improve the quality of debate around asylum issues”. This is one of the conclusions of Reporting on Refugees: Guidence by & for Journalists, a study published by National Union of Journalists in Dublin.

UNHCR stated that war remains the dominant cause. A full 55 percent of all refugees listed in its report come from just five war-affected countries: Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, Syria and Sudan.

Inaccurate terminology and commentary have also increased confusion; leading to prejudice. Frequently the words ‘refugee’ and ‘asylum seeker’ are used interchangeably, without distinction.

The report Asylum Seekers, Refugees and Media Briefing published by the Information Centre about Asylum and Refugees (ICAR) points to the same conclusion. ICAR analysed the UK media finding that journalists do not distinguish between migrants, asylum seekers and refugees.

They also denounce the bad practice of providing inaccurate figures. “Press articles and broadcast programmes contain expressions such as “thousands” or “hundreds” of refugees, which do not demonstrate a fair and balanced way to report about migration and humanitarian issues, nor do they make any reference to available statistical data. Precise data is crucial when talking about information on asylum seekers and refugees”.

The UNHCR has a website with statistical data available for any country. They provide data, reports, maps, and statistical information for field operations, and also statistical reports on refugees, asylum-seekers and returned refugees.

The ICAR report reveals also that refugees and asylum seekers who have been victims of harassment feel strongly that the press presents hostile images of asylum seekers and refugees and that those increase the likelihood of local persecution of individual asylum seekers and refugees.

The report suggests that “the best way to contrast the misrepresentation of refugees and asylum seekers is by pushing for their integration into mainstream media in order to have representatives from refugee backgrounds in the industry. This leads to the production of more diverse information and policies aimed at engaging different audiences”.

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Furthermore, The Media for Diversity and Migrant Integration Project (MEDIVA) has compiled the codes of practice and ethics of journalists in 27 EU members’ states in order to identify relevant ‘non-discrimination’ provisions that reporters should follow.

MEDIVA seeks to strengthen the capacity of the media to reflect the increasing diversity of European societies and thus foster a better understanding of immigrant integration processes at a time when social cohesion and integration policies are put to the test by an acute economic crisis.

On the other hand, the Migrants’ Rights Network awarded this year examples of outstanding media coverage of refugee and migrant women in the UK. They looked for stories that challenged myths and stereotypes, and explored new angles on women and forced migration.

The winner in the print category was Zoe Williams for her article in the Guardian ‘Evicting asylum seekers? We just follow orders’. The winner in the online category was Len Grant for the blog Life Without Papers, which shines a light into the hidden lives of undocumented families. The winner in the broadcast category was Jackie Long for her report for Channel 4 News on chaos in the UK Border Agency and the impact that this has had on one individual refugee woman.

To mark Refugee Day, UNHCR has launched a campaign ‘If your family had just 1 minute to flee, what would you take?’. For example, Magbola Alhadi  (on the photo) chose to bring with her a pot when her and her children were forced to flee after  soldiers came and opened fire on their village.“It was small enough to carry on their 12-day journey, yet big enough to cook for her family”.

Article published at Media Diversity Institute