Nelson Mandela would have made a fine peace journalist #Sundayreading


By Steven Youngblood
Director, Center for Global Peace Journalism, Park University

At a fundamental level, Mandela and peace journalists share an understanding of the importance of language. One key tenant of peace journalism is that the words we as journalists use matter—that they can either soothe or inflame passions. Mandela might have gone one step further, noting not only journalists’ responsibility to choose their words carefully, but also their duty to use language in a way that bridges divides and brings people together.  Mandela said, “Without language, we cannot talk to people and understand them. One cannot share their hopes and aspirations, learn their history, appreciate their poetry and savor their songs. I again realize that we are not different people with separate language; we are one people with different tongues.” (http://africa.waccglobal.org/what%20is%20peace%20journalism_.pdf )

Another value peace journalists share with Mandela is a commitment to ongoing dialogue, like the kind begun under Mandela’s post-apartheid Peace and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa. The Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory is continuing that work today, offering “a non-partisan platform for public discourse on important social issues…that contribute to policy decision-making.” (nelsonmandela.org)  Peace journalists, of course, can provide this platform, but not just to those in power. We seek to give a voice to all parties, with a special emphasis on giving voice to the voiceless.

I hope Mr. Mandela would be proud of the work that one group of peace reporters just concluded in Lebanon.  These reporters told the stories of Syrian refugees living in Beirut in a way that demystified the stereotypes about these individuals while fostering a dialogue within Lebanese society about how to accommodate and protect 440,000 refugees.

Many of Mandela’s principles not only align with peace journalism, but also lay out a blueprint for successful peace journalists.

This blueprint for peace journalists can be found, succinctly, in the UN’s written declaration of July 18th as Nelson Mandela International Day.  The UN declaration “recognizes Nelson Mandela’s values and his dedication to the service of humanity, in the fields of conflict resolution, race relations, the promotion and protection of human rights, reconciliation, gender equality and the rights of children and other vulnerable groups, as well as the uplifting of poor and underdeveloped communities. It acknowledges his contribution to the struggle for democracy internationally and the promotion of a culture of peace throughout the world.” (masterpeace.org).

This statement is not only Mandela’s legacy, it is his charge to all of us, but especially to those of us who subscribe to the notion that we as journalists have a higher responsibility. This means that we must study and understand conflict resolution, and apply that knowledge to balanced reporting that gives proportionate voice to those who seek peace rather than exclusively to those who rattle the sabers of violence.  Mandela’s legacy charges peace journalists with facilitating meaningful dialogues on race, and empowering those in our society who are marginalized (women, children, and the poor).  This means that along with peace journalism, we should practice development journalism, using our platforms to focus attention on societal problems and solutions.

Most of all, this legacy charges journalists with putting the spotlight on the Nelson Mandelas in each society—those who seek  peace and reconciliation. Mandela’s statement during his 1964 trial is a testimony to the positive power of language, and to journalism’s responsibility to give voice to those who seek a peaceful path.  Mandela told the court, “I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” (transcend.org)

 

Kofi Annan: Africa plundered by secret mining deals


Bauxite factory in mineral-rich Guinea (Archive shot) Under-pricing deprives Africa of much-needed money, the report says

Tax avoidance, secret mining deals and financial transfers are depriving Africa of the benefits of its resources boom, ex-UN chief Kofi Annan has said.

Firms that shift profits to lower tax jurisdictions cost Africa $38bn (£25bn) a year, says a report produced by a panel he heads.

“Africa loses twice as much money through these loopholes as it gets from donors,” Mr Annan told the BBC.

It was like taking food off the tables of the poor, he said.

The Africa Progress Report is released every May – produced by a panel of 10 prominent figures, including former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo and Graca Machel, the wife of South African ex-President Nelson Mandela.

‘Highly opaque’

African countries needed to improve governance and the world’s richest nations should help introduce global rules on transparency and taxation, Mr Annan said.

The report gave the Democratic Republic of Congo as an example, where between 2010 and 2012 five under-priced mining concessions were sold in “highly opaque and secretive deals”.

Kofi Annan: “Transparency is a powerful tool”

This cost the country, which the charity Save the Children said earlier this week was the world’s worst place to be a mother, $1.3bn in revenues.

This figure was equivalent to double DR Congo’s health and education budgets combined, the report said.

DR Congo’s mining minister disputed the findings, saying the country had “lost nothing”.

“These assets were ceded in total transparency,” Martin Kabwelulu told Reuters news agency.

The report added that many mineral-rich countries needed “urgently to review the design of their tax regimes”, which were designed to attract foreign investment when commodity prices were low.

It quotes a review in Zambia which found that between 2005 and 2009, 500,000 copper mine workers were paying a higher rate of tax than major multinational mining firms.

Africa loses more through what it calls “illicit outflows” than it gets in aid and foreign direct investment, it explains.

“We are not getting the revenues we deserve often because of either corrupt practices, transfer pricing, tax evasion and all sorts of activities that deprive us of our due,” Mr Annan told the BBC’s Newsday programme.

“Transparency is a powerful tool,” he said, adding that the report was urging African leaders to put “accountability centre stage”.

Mr Annan said African governments needed to insist that local companies became involved in mining deals and manage them in “such a way that it also creates employment”.

“This Africa cannot do alone. The tax evasion, avoidance, secret bank accounts are problems for the world… so we all need to work together particularly the G8, as they meet next month, to work to ensure we have a multilateral solution to this crisis,” he said.

For richer nations “if a company avoids tax or transfers the money to offshore account what they lose is revenues”, Mr Annan said.

“Here on our continent, it affects the life of women and children – in effect in some situations it is like taking food off the table for the poor.”

 

#India- In Custody: Five Years in Jail and Innocent #sedition #dissent #Prison #Justice


  • January 15, 2013, 

    By Michael Edison Hayden, Wall street journal, India 

Roberto Schmidt/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
A man peeked through an opening of a door to a prison ward at the Tihar jail, New Delhi, April 26, 2012.

This week, India Real Time presents an in-depth look at the country’s prison and custody system.

It is a system that still carries many attributes of its origins in British-run colonial India, and gives a high degree of discretion to how state governments apply the penal code — and who ends up behind bars, whether serving prison sentences, or in temporary army or police custody.

Experts note that the national government, over decades, hasn’t funded the expansion of the prison system to meet the increasing ranks of prisoners. In part, those ranks have increased because India’s court system is backlogged with 65% of India’s 240,000 people in jail yet to face a verdict in court, according to government data. They also point to allegations of abuse in army custody, which the army denies. 

In four chapters this week, India Real Time will examine different aspects of life under custody, as well as attempts to improve it. They include the experience of those facing trial as well as efforts being made to promote rehabilitation over punishment.

Arun Ferreira
Pictured, Arun Ferreira.

MUMBAI, India – When Arun Ferreira went to prison in 2007, his son was only two. Today, they are reunited, and a tide of private anguish has at last begun to roll back and wash away.

“My family didn’t tell him that I was in jail, they told him I was away on business for five years,” Mr. Ferreira says.

“Today, my son still doesn’t believe it. Recently, he saw a picture of Nelson Mandela somewhere. I explained who he was, and then I mentioned [what happened to me], and he thought I was fibbing.”

On an unusually sunny afternoon during monsoon season in the residential neighborhood of Bandra, Mr. Ferreira is gracious and funny as we sit in a local coffee shop to discuss his experience in jail. Mr. Ferreira was arrested under the auspices that he was a Maoist rebel, planning to blow up the Deekshabhoomi Complex, a monument in the town of Nagpur, where the Dalit icon Ambedkar is believed to have embraced Buddhism for the first time. Mr. Ferreira spent most of the following roughly four years and a half years in Nagpur’s Central Jail.

The Communist Party of India (Maoist), are also known as Naxalites, a reference to the West Bengal town of Naxalbari, where their movement began. Started as a left wing political group in the 1940s, in the 1960s they launched an armed struggle against the Indian government, which they have been violently opposing ever since.

Their largest support base comes from local tribes who seek to retain their land resisting industrial interests. In 2006, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh famously described Naxalism as “the single biggest internal security challenge ever faced by our country.” Members of the group could not be reached.

Mr. Ferreira was charged with attacking a police station, firing on police, and booked under the Unlawful Activities Act of 2004, a law created to bolster security against possible terrorist attacks.

Mr. Ferreira claims he was held for organizing slum-dwellers to unite in protest against the demolition of their homes. Such demolitions are a frequent source of strife here in Mumbai, often pitting poorer locals against police and property developers. Mr. Ferreira is currently out on bail and contesting two additional charges – allegations that he illicitly possessed arms and fired on police – that were leveled against him by plain-clothes officers during his time of awaiting trial in Nagpur. Mr. Ferreira denies any wrongdoing.

The Wall Street Journal
Source: National Crime Records Bureau

In Sept. 2011, a court ruled that Mr. Ferreira was innocent of all eight of the charges that were placed against him, over four years and eight months after his initial arrest.

Justice Hosbet Suresh, 83, is a former judge of the Mumbai High Court whose experience working inside the system has driven him, during his retirement years, to become an advocate for prisoners’ rights. He says that India’s slow trials are being made even slower by a lack of judicial manpower.

“There are simply not enough judges to handle all of the cases,” says Mr. Suresh. “We just have too few of them relative to the population here.”

According to the Indian Bar Association, as of 2010, there were over 30 million cases pending in courts across India due in large part to a ratio of 11 judges per million people. This leaves India with a persistent backlog of cases waiting to be heard.

As a result, “more than half of the prison population here is under trial,” Mr. Suresh estimates.

The Wall Street Journal
A graphic showing total inmates segregated by convicts, detainees and undertrial.

It’s a lot more than half: The most recent survey conducted by the National Crimes Record Bureau, a government agency, found that as many as 64.7% of Indian prisoners have not yet been convicted. And while prisoners who are ultimately convicted will see their time spent in jail while waiting for trial reduced from their sentence, such provisions provide very little consolation to the innocent, like Mr. Ferreira.

For some it’s even worse: According to the study, 1,486 under trial prisoners, or 0.6% % of the total, had been jailed for five years without having had a single day in court.

Another reason prisoners sometimes wait years for their trial is that, according to government data, the majority of those arrested are too poor to afford bail and legal counsel.

India lacks a federal department of prisons, like that of the United States. Instead, prisons are a responsibility of individual states, although the ministry of law lays out broad guidelines on how to administer them.

Mr. Ferreira believes his politics may have played a role in his prolonged detention. He says he was shuffled between several different facilities during his time at Nagpur Central. He spent his first year in the high security Anda barrack, and his final two years were spent in what’s known as the Gunah Khana, or punishment cells.

In between that time, Mr. Ferreira says he was placed with convicts in the Phasi yard. The Phasi yard is the gallows; it’s where death row inmates are kept. Mr. Ferreira says that guards told him that he was placed there for being a security threat.

When I reached out to Nagpur Central Jail, a senior official said the prison does not comment on the cases of specific inmates. The official added that it is the policy of the prison to keep convicts and prisoners who are under trials separated in adherence with the law. According to Mr. Ferreira’s account, he found himself rubbing shoulders with those convicted of the 1993 bomb blasts that rocked Mumbai, and with the perpetrators of the Kherlanji massacre of 2006, where Dalit men and women were slaughtered by upper caste Hindus.  He had little choice but to remain calm and do his best not to draw attention to himself for that entire year. A spokesman for Nagpur Central Jail declined to comment on Mr. Ferreira’s allegations.

 

– Vibhuti Agarwal contributed to this post.

Michael Edison Hayden is an American writer currently living in Mumbai. 

 

Three Women Prisoners assaulted in Mumbai Jail for raising issues


‘Published: Monday, Apr 23, 2012, 8:30 IST

By Dilnaz Boga | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA

Three suspected women Maoists sympathisers lodged in Mumbai District Women’s Prison in Byculla have alleged that the jail authorities had assaulted them for highlighting the prison’s problems. They have filed a complaint in the sessions court at Sewri.

Angela Sontakey, 42, Sushma Ramteke, 22, and Jyoti Chorghe, 19, were arrested by the anti-terrorism squad (ATS) in April last year under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.

The three have pleaded for a thorough investigation into the assault incident of April 2. They want their statement to be recorded and the police register an FIR.

They have alleged that in a bid to alienate them the jail authorities directed the volunteers of the NGOs not to talk to them and they were denied admission to computer classes run by an NGO. The trio alleged that the authorities even confiscated Mahatma

Gandhi’s biography and a jail manual they had brought with them to share with other prisoners about prison rights.

On March 31, the trio saw some inmates being beaten by the authorities. When they tried to intervene, they were attacked by the jail employees, the complaint stated. The three were accused of instigating inmates. The inmates protested by refusing food and demanded an apology from the administration.

Two days later, Sontakey, Ramteke and Chorghe were sent to solitary confinement. “No complaint was registered before punishing us. No doctor came. No medical tests were done before the confinement and after,” the application said.

The trio then went on a hunger strike for six days. The complainants claim that they had been targeted by the authorities. “We had always raised our voice against the corrupt practices of the jail. Bribe is taken for giving requisition for your guards, for getting things, to go to JJ Hospital and for making false medical record.”

The three complained that the jail inmates are so “terrorised” by the jail’s Reform and Rehabilitation Centre that they fear to seek help. The other inmates approach them for writing applications and counselling. “This has alarmed the authorities as they feel that their importance is diminishing,” says the complaint.

“It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should be not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones,” the complaint quotes from South African leader Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom.

IG Prisons Surender Kumar said, “There are three or four people from that group who have been creating trouble in the jail by demanding different things. We had complained about them to the judge. I’m not aware about the assault incident but I don’t think our officers would have resorted to such tactics.”