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Thursday:  July 24, 2014

When Will Chile's Post Office's Re-open? 

(PHOTO: Workers set up camp at Santiago's Rio Mapocho/Mason Bryan, The Santiago Times)Chile nears 1 month without mail service as postal worker protests continue. This week local branches of the 5 unions representing Correos de Chile voted on whether to continue their strike into a 2nd month, rejecting the union's offer. For a week the workers have set up camp on the banks of Santiago's Río Mapocho displaying banners outlining their demands; framing the issue as a division of the rich & the poor. The strike’s main slogan? “Si tocan a uno, nos tocan a todos,” it reads - if it affects 1 of us, it affects all of us. (Read more at The Santiago Times)

WHO convenes emergency talks on MERS virus

 

(PHOTO: Saudi men walk to the King Fahad hospital in the city of Hofuf, east of the capital Riyadh on June 16, 2013/Fayez Nureldine)The World Health Organization announced Friday it had convened emergency talks on the enigmatic, deadly MERS virus, which is striking hardest in Saudi Arabia. The move comes amid concern about the potential impact of October's Islamic hajj pilgrimage, when millions of people from around the globe will head to & from Saudi Arabia.  WHO health security chief Keiji Fukuda said the MERS meeting would take place Tuesday as a telephone conference & he  told reporters it was a "proactive move".  The meeting could decide whether to label MERS an international health emergency, he added.  The first recorded MERS death was in June 2012 in Saudi Arabia & the number of infections has ticked up, with almost 20 per month in April, May & June taking it to 79.  (Read more at Xinhua)

LINKS TO OTHER STORIES

                                

Dreams and nightmares - Chinese leaders have come to realize the country should become a great paladin of the free market & democracy & embrace them strongly, just as the West is rejecting them because it's realizing they're backfiring. This is the "Chinese Dream" - working better than the American dream.  Or is it just too fanciful?  By Francesco Sisci

Baby step towards democracy in Myanmar  - While the sweeping wins Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy has projected in Sunday's by-elections haven't been confirmed, it is certain that the surging grassroots support on display has put Myanmar's military-backed ruling party on notice. By Brian McCartan

The South: Busy at the polls - South Korea's parliamentary polls will indicate how potent a national backlash is against President Lee Myung-bak's conservatism, perceived cronyism & pro-conglomerate policies, while offering insight into December's presidential vote. Desire for change in the macho milieu of politics in Seoul can be seen in a proliferation of female candidates.  By Aidan Foster-Carter  

Pakistan climbs 'wind' league - Pakistan is turning to wind power to help ease its desperate shortage of energy,& the country could soon be among the world's top 20 producers. Workers & farmers, their land taken for the turbine towers, may be the last to benefit.  By Zofeen Ebrahim

Turkey cuts Iran oil imports - Turkey is to slash its Iranian oil imports as it seeks exemptions from United States penalties linked to sanctions against Tehran. Less noticed, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Iranian capital last week, signed deals aimed at doubling trade between the two countries.  By Robert M. Cutler

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Thursday
Jun172010

Kyrgyzstan: Media Failed to Adequately Report the Bloodshed in the South (Commentary)

by Cholpon Nogoibaeva

Exclusive Commentary for HUMNEWS

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan - Bloody clashes in Kyrgyzstan’s south have been dominating headlines in the international media for the past several days. Scenes of rioting crowds watched by seemingly clueless law enforcement officers remaining passive have flashed on television screens around the world, suggesting a direct link between the state and the marginalized groups.  Pictures of young men agitated by a feeling of impunity riding captured armored vehicles are coupled with text saying that the government is unable to normalize the situation. The printed and electronic media, blogs are full of stories describing horror, violence and lawlessness.

The coverage of the events in the South has been immediate but its accuracy left much to be desired. It is vitally important that conflicts should be covered, and, preferably, by free media, who adhere to impartiality.  However, reporting on Kyrgyzstan shows that even those enjoying freedom of the press fall victim to stereotyping, generalization and misrepresentation.

Today Kyrgyzstan is shown in international media as a failed state that is about to cease to exist, a country gripped by civil war, where ethnic cleansing and genocide of ethnic Uzbeks takes place. How and why did such an image of Kyrgyzstan and its people arise?  Whatever the reason - uninformed reporters or superficial analysis - is of little importance now: major messages have been communicated and fixed in the minds of millions of people creating fertile ground for panic and rumors.

What happened in the south was horrible – the dead, wounded, refugees and victims of violent crimes. The number of people killed is higher than reported in official statistics because only those who have been delivered to specialized medical institutions for identification are included in the statistics.  While houses and shops were torched on a scale hitherto not seen in Kyrgyzstan, these were not acts of ethnic cleansing and genocide of Kyrgyzstani Uzbeks.  Central and local governments, police and army, government and non-government organizations did not engage in acts that violated the civil rights of Kyrgyzstani Uzbeks.  The Kyrgyz Republic's identity as a state is based on citizenship, not ethnic origin.

Kyrgyzstan does not have a policy that separates or discriminates on the basis of ethnicity. That is why police officers died trying to calm mobs of young Kyrgyz and Uzbeks who were provoked by specially trained mercenaries. Liberal use of the words "genocide" and "ethnic cleansing," irresponsible distribution of information, or, what is much worse, willful distortion of information, have damaged not only the people of Kyrgyzstan, but ethnic Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and other countries.

It is particularly sad that the clashes in two Southern regions of Kyrgyzstan are labeled as ethnic conflict. Willingly or unwillingly, those who do so confuse causes and consequences. The bloodshed in Osh and Jalalabad was caused not by inter-ethnic tension between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz, but by willful provocations that were aimed precisely at causing bloodbath between the two peoples. The perpetrators were nationals of Kyrgyzstan and other countries, while the funding and overall coordination came from ex-President Bakiev's closes relatives. Their purpose was to create havoc to ensure that the 27 June referendum on the new constitution that establishes a parliamentary democracy does not take place.

There were at least three groups of mercenaries. One included highly trained snipers who went around town in cars with tinted glasses, shooting both Kyrgyz and Uzbeks. Presumably, these snipers were the same snipers who shot at the people from the roof of the Government Building in Bishkek in April.

There were also arsonists, who were responsible for setting buildings on fire in Kyrgyz and Uzbek districts. One of the things that contributed to the panic was that the arsonists set on fire buildings with slate roof. At high temperature slate cracks loudly with a sound that can be mistaken for gunfire.

The third group consisted of instigators who prompted males to avenge by spreading rumors of multiple atrocities: committed by Kyrgyz against the Uzbeks, committed by Uzbeks against the Kyrgyz. These planned and deliberate actions caused the conflicts on the night of June 10-11 and the timing was to coincide with the 20th anniversary of serious inter-ethnic disturbances that took place a year before Kyrgyzstan became an independent state in 1991.  Subsequent events followed the intended scenario and resulted in clashes between the two communities. 

The new coalition interim government was not ready for this development and lacked capacity to intervene to turn the events around quickly, which the mercenaries took advantage of very well.  There were cases when residents of neighboring ethnic districts tried to reconcile with each other, but were shot at by unknown snipers. Gunmen fired on trucks that distributed humanitarian aid, sabotaging relief efforts and creating an impression among the people of Osh (who suffered from lack of food and other essentials) that the local and central government abandoned them.

The masterminds of these provocations that caused numerous civilian victims and a flood of refugees knew precisely of various long running social, community and criminal (especially narco-business) tensions which existed in the south and were able to take advantage of weakness of the interim government.

Rehabilitating towns and villages and, most importantly, returning to normal life in Osh and Jalalabad will take years and colossal resources. Kyrgyz citizens will face a wave of post-conflict gore and negative information. A representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said today that the events were orchestrated and planned in advance by shadowy groups and not a spontaneous inter-ethnic clash.

Free media would do a great service to all Kyrgyzstanis by stopping reproduction of clichés and paying more attention to the young nation that tries to create its own civic identity.

Ms. Nogoibaeva is President of Institute for Policy Analysis in Bishkek.

Tuesday
Jun082010

World Cup a Chance to Tackle Exclusion - Navi Pillay

(HN, Opinion Piece, June 9, 2010) The Fifa Soccer World Cup kicks off on Friday. This is an opportune occasion to reflect on the fact that sport is meant to foster social cohesion, bring different cultures together in a celebration of healthy competition, and to overcome the diffidence and even contempt that all too often divide countries and communities in the political and social arenas.

The movie Invictus, about how former president Nelson Mandela used rugby to build a common national identity, was one such reflection. And the choice of SA, a country that renounced the institutionalised racism of apartheid, as the host of the World Cup, is a perfect opportunity and platform to renew our efforts to combat discrimination in all its forms.

As a victim of racism and a sports fan, I urge all who play or simply watch sport to use the World Cup as a catalyst to call for global action against intolerance and racism. These are scourges that affect countless women, men and children around the world and that must be challenged at every turn.

Indeed, fear, intolerance and xenophobia can all be combated with the diametrically opposed values of fair play and co-operation that are so central to team sports such as football. The World Cup is perhaps the highest expression of football’s ability to join millions of people from around the world in a common and joyous pursuit.

We all have our favourite team but let us not forget that the World Cup allows us to connect with others whose history, culture and traditions we may otherwise never have been exposed to. We are all enriched by this contact. Our common passion for football reinforces the bonds of community pride, makes explicit our shared aspiration for excellence, and channels and elevates our instinct of competition.

But let us also be vigilant about racism and other manifestations of intolerance that poison sport — particularly football — and that undermine its positive message and bring it into disrepute. This happens all too often when the supporters of competing teams use slurs and even violence to vilify and attack their opponents.

Regrettably, even the players have at times been prone to such despicable behaviour. Professional footballers are rightly obliged to uphold the highest standards of sportsmanship, both ethically and under Fifa’s code of conduct, which includes provisions on nondiscrimination. Yet, on occasion, rich clubs and rich national bodies have escaped more severe sanction by paying derisory fines after serious racist incidents during matches.

National football authorities everywhere must back their strong rhetoric with serious and consistent disincentives. Manifestations of racism or intolerance in or around the stadiums during the World Cup should be swiftly addressed and the perpetrators isolated. The clear message of the World Cup must be that there is no place for racism and intolerance in sport.

At the same time, the World Cup should maximise the potential of this sport to educate ever-expanding constituencies and attract talent irrespective of social status and position in life. For many poor athletes, soccer has offered a way out of exclusion. Their accomplishments have inspired others to follow suit. In every society, successful sportsmen and women are role models whose behaviour is closely scrutinised and even emulated. Young minds are especially influenced by both positive and negative messages received from those they respect, particularly their sports heroes.

Ultimately, the real winners of this year’s World Cup will be those who celebrate and uphold in words and in deeds its values of fair play, honest competition, respect and tolerance both on and off the field. Let’s kick discrimination off the field. Let’s tackle exclusion. Let’s put racism offside.

Pillay is United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. This first appeared in South Africa's Business Day Newspaper