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Posts Tagged ‘Human Rights’

Banner imagery that needs no translation. (Photo courtesy of Liza Slay.)

BRATISLAVA – Reverberations continued this week after Slovakia’s first-ever rally for gay pride, which was disrupted by neo-Nazis and cut short for fear Slovak police wouldn’t do enough to prevent violence.

Two ways to read the May 22 “Rainbow Rally”: 1) one more barometer of Slovak democracy, a step forward in that the event was allowed, as hundreds of Slovaks and Westerners gathered in support; 2) dismay at how it unfolded.

Catholic, conservative Slovakia is said to be the last of the ex-Communist-turned-European-Union members to host such an event. Yet no sooner did speakers take the stage in a central square than witnesses say they saw bomber-jacketed skinheads drop tear-gas canisters among the crowd.

Other demonstrators interrupted with cries of “perverts” and “deviants.”

“We haven’t come here to condemn homosexuals, but to say that homosexuality is a clear sin, and if these people continue committing it they’ll face eternal damnation,” said Jozef Dupkala, president of the Association for Protection of the Family, according to the English-language Slovak Spectator.

Even Western diplomats, who earlier expressed support for the rally, told the Spectator they felt uneasy about the “thugs” milling about, amid passive police. Rally organizers, citing reports that scores of skinheads might be lining the streets beyond, cancelled the parade that was to follow.

Slovak riot police said they detained 28 extremists, but activists smoldered this week after a pair of un-sympathetic comments from top government officials: one said organizers should have hired themselves private security, while a second reportedly called for mutual respect from “both sides.”

“As if it were not outrageous enough that a top state representative in the area of human rights and minorities failed to move at his own initiative to defend the event, he is now calling for tolerance toward violent neo-Nazi groups,” said rally spokeswoman Romana Schlesinger. (more…)

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Inciting hatred via campaign billboard. (Credit: TASR)

[This post appeared May 25 on TOL’s “Roma Blog”]

BRATISLAVA – It started out this morning as a café breakfast with the press, for the European Roma Rights Center to introduce its range of litigation, advocacy and research to the handful of Slovak media even interested in Roma issues.

The chat, though, led inexorably to the role these reporters themselves – and especially, their less-empathetic colleagues – play in shaping harsh Slovak attitudes toward Roma, a.k.a. “the Gypsies.” For me, it also revealed the need here for what some call “human rights-based journalism.”

One reporter opened eyes with his calculation that of the 15 journalists in his office, “thirteen are racist.” Another admitted, “We live in a racist world, and my company is absolutely racist.”

This is no surprise to anyone living in Eastern Europe, where you’re hard-pressed to find any minority on the entire continent more harassed than the estimated 8 million to 12 million Roma.

Yet this is relevant today in Slovakia, on the eve of June 12 elections. Following in the footsteps of neighboring Hungary and its elections last month, the Roma question is once again an irresistible platform for parties pandering to a public ready to scapegoat minorities for their frustrations with the whole post-Communist transition. And oh, by the way, both countries are now members of the European Union — an exclusive club of European democracies.

Several Slovak parties, for example, are advocating the “voluntary” placement of Roma schoolchildren into new boarding schools – which smacks some as ethnic segregation.

More notoriously, the ruling coalition’s far-right partner, the Slovak National Party, produced billboards featuring a bare-chested, obviously Romani man, heavily tattooed and gold chain draped around his neck. Beneath, the slogan: “So that we don’t feed those who don’t want to work.” (It’s since been revealed that the photo was, in face, digitally altered for dramatic effect.)

Defending the billboard, one SNP official creatively – but unconvincingly – accused critics of being the real racists: after all, they were the ones who assumed the man was a Gypsy. (more…)

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Thousands in Hong Kong lined the streets for a parade to celebrate China’s 60th National Day. (Photo: mjj)

[This piece appeared Oct. 1, 2009, in The Global Post.]

In Britain’s former colony, now China’s property, the mood is mixed.

By Michael J. Jordan — Special to GlobalPost

Editor’s note: Oct. 1 is the 60th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China. To mark the occasion we have two dispatches from two very different corners of China — Tibet and Hong Kong. And from Beijing, Kathleen E. McLaughlin looks at the event’s unique security arrangements.

HONG KONG, China — One month ago, Chinese journalists flocked to cover renewed violence in Xinjiang province, as ethnic Chinese blamed the Uighur minority for a rash of mysterious hypodermic-needle attacks.

China’s media is among the most restricted in the world, so it wasn’t entirely surprising when reports emerged that police had beaten and detained three of the bolder television journalists, accusing them of inciting inter-ethnic violence.

Except, this trio hailed from Hong Kong, the one beacon of democracy in all of China. So news of their treatment struck a nerve in a territory that London returned to China 12 years ago, after 150 years of British rule. Hundreds of Hong Kong journalists took to the streets to demand not only an apology from the Chinese authorities, but even an investigation of the event.

“Press freedom and rule of law are core values of Hong Kong society,” said Yin-ting Mak, chairwoman of the Hong Kong Journalists Association. “That’s why people were so angry, because this was the most vivid, most extreme example of violating these values.”

The incident exposed ongoing tensions within the “One Country, Two Systems” policy that underpinned the British handover and lies at the heart of China-Hong Kong relations today.

This helps explain why this week, as Beijing celebrates 60 years of the “People’s Republic of China” and Communist Party accomplishments, the reaction is far more mixed in politically polarized Hong Kong. After all, Hong Kong has shared only one-fifth of that history, and many locals descend from the Chinese refugees who fled since the 1949 Communist takeover. (more…)

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