‘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”.

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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.

‘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

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

Media in Iraq Accused of Contributing to Sunni- Shia Division

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The media in Iraq has been accused of exacerbating the sectarian tensions that already exist between Sunnis and Shia groups. Both factions own and operate many of the newspapers and radio and TV stations in Iraq, converting the media in their propaganda tool to spread their message and alienate the two Muslim societies.

Some critics have pointed the negative role that media is playing in the sectarian confrontation. There has been an increase of Sunni and Shia attacks across the country and especially in Baghdad in the last months.

Salah Nasrawi writes in Al-Ahram newspaper that “the Iraqi media and journalists are being caught in the crossfire of the country’s sectarian divisions and driven by warlords and self-centred politicians who are inflaming sectarianism for their own greedy interests”.

Overall, the Iraqi media are split into three camps – Shia, Sunni and Kurdish, each of which leans towards its own community instead of reporting on inclusive terms.

Shias accuse Sunni-owned radio and television of taking sides by presenting rumours or sectarian rhetoric and giving platforms for speakers and preachers to incite hatred. On the other side, Sunnis denounce that the Iraqi Media Network IMN, a national institution funded by the public’s taxes, is a tool of the Shiite Prime Minister al-Maliki and its failure to cover on going protests in the Sunni provinces, reports Osama Al-Habahbeh on his article at International Media Support.

Facing this situation, the Iraqi Communications and Media Commission has responded with a warning: “They [the media] should change their discourse and stop sectarianism.”

The current situation in Iraq brings back memories from the bloody years of sectarian confrontation between 2005 and 2008, when on average 3.000 people were killed every month and the media was used to demonise the other communities.

Dr Ibrahim Al-Marash found during his fieldwork in 2007 for his book on Iraq media that “a common perception held amongst the Iraqi public, and even journalists themselves, is that different factions have used the newspapers, radio and TV as ‘tools of war’.”

It is usually said that media can foment the conflict but also contribute the solution. In this case, the media in Iraq is being used for the former as the journalist Salah states in his article. “Iraq’s media now reflects the country’s political and religious divisions rather than being a diverse and free media and a means to inform, educate and entertain people and act as an essential instrument of nation-building”.