|FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION|
Governments don’t get the joke
Reprinted with permission from
WITTY WORLD MAGAZINE, NO17
Syndicated columnist Art Buchwald once wrote that: ‘Dictators of the right and left fear the political cartoonist more than they do the atomic bomb.’
For his cartoon suggesting that President Robert Mugabe might follow Mobutu Sese Seko into exile, Tony Namate has been attacked as ‘treasonable, infuriating and unacceptable’ by the Zimbabwe Government, and threatened with legal action.
Namate is not alone. Every year, cartoonists around the world are murdered, assaulted, jailed, sacked and banned. In 1996, Argentinian cartoonist Cristian (Nik) Dzworki was abducted, hit with a pistol and told to ‘stop messing around’. In Algeria in 1995, Guerrovi Brahim was kidnapped and later found executed near his home in a southern suburb of Algiers. In Turkey, Ertan Aydin has faced nine trials since 1994 and served eight months in prison because of his cartoons.
Legislation in Croatia, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco and China makes it a criminal offence to satirize public officials. In Cambodia, newspapers have been instructed not to use cartoon animals to depict members of the Government.
Rob Edwards, director of the Centre for the Study of Cartoons and Caricature at the University of Kent in Canterbury, England, gives the example of Nazi Germany, where ‘cartoonists were ranked as degenerate artists and supreme enemies of the State’. Hitler had a group of Polish cartoonists executed on 27 May 1944 for drawing against Nazi fascism.
The Greek journalist Helen Vlachos once said that a good test for a healthy democracy is the presence of a large number of cartoonists. However, in the information age, Rod Edwards thinks cartoons risk being ‘lost in the clutter’. He argues that if cartoonists ‘just stick to newspapers’, and don’t investigate new media such as the Internet, or animation, they might just ‘sink without a trace’.
Independent Arab TV
Arab Network News (ANN), a new 24-hour Arabic-language, satellite-TV channel based in London, is to be launched within the next two months. It has obtained a broadcasting licence from Britain’s Independent Television Commission. According to its chairperson, Sawmar al-Asad, the new channel will concentrate on socio-economic issues affecting Arab societies, such as family economics, housing, education, childhood and marriage problems, as well as political news. Al-Asad said that while other Arab satellite TV channels were afraid of ‘embarrassing the government institutions to which they belong’, ANN would transmit free and independent news because it is financed by private money without any contribution from governments or official institutions.
Source: Middle East International, No 553
CHRIS STOWERS /
Police recently shot 36 people in Mumbai (Bombay), during fierce riots in the Indian city. Thousands of outcastes (‘untouchables’ or harijans) took to the streets, protesting the desecration of a statue of Dr Ambedkar. A harijan himself, Dr Ambedkar was one of the founding fathers of the Indian constitution and a passionate crusader for the rights of harijans. The statue had been garlanded with a string of shoes.
Source: Times of India
PETE FRANCIS / CAMERA PRESS
F-16s for Latin America
Thanks to a 20-year US Government restriction on the sale of high-tech weapons to Latin America, US weapons manufacturers had little interest in exploiting the region’s arms market. Recently, however, the Clinton administration has allowed US arms manufacturer Lockheed Martin to negotiate a bid for the sale of F-16 fighters to Chile. Brazil has expressed interest in acquiring its own F-16s. Peru and Ecuador are also shopping around.
Although democracies exist throughout Latin America, it would be naive to believe they are strong. Introducing high-tech weapons to the region bodes a future of violent eruptions, regional instability, intensified border skirmishes and a growing arms race. One cannot help but question the logic behind the US Government’s current manoeuvres. Perhaps the answer lies in the $1.6 million political contributions Lockheed Martin made during the 1995-96 election cycle.
Source: The Nation, Vol 264, No 21
Karaoke’s last song
In the early 1990s Karaoke bars were all the rage in Beijing. But now many karaoke clubs are struggling to survive. In fact, 800 karaoke halls in Beijing have already closed. The reason for this, says Guan Tiehan of the Beijing Culture Administration, is that ‘Beijing is very fad conscious’ and karaoke is past its prime. It seems that Beijingers are finding that watching their friends sing badly just isn’t worth the huge fees charged by karaoke bars.
Source: World Press Review, Vol 44 No 8
Arrests follow mining protests
In Forest County, Wisconsin, 29 people have been arrested for participating in an Earth First! protest against Exxon/Rio Algom corporation’s proposed metallic-sulphide mine. Protesters were bussed hundreds of kilometres to five different jails in five different counties in the Midwestern state. Some were placed in solitary confinement while others were denied access to telephones or water. All were denied the right to speak to an attorney.
The crime? Unlawful assembly while carrying signs and chanting slogans. Sheriff’s Departments and Forest Service Law Enforcement Officers violently suppressed the peaceful protests after just 20 minutes.
The arrests took place following the 1997 Earth First! Round River Rendezvous, held because substantive evidence has emerged that Exxon and other extraction corporations have successfully biased the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, influenced the Wisconsin State Legislature, and dismantled environmental watchdogs like the offices of the Public Intervenor and the Secretary of State. They have also interfered in the local politics of many Wisconsin townships, counties and Indian communities and spent millions of dollars on a public-relations blitz, including television, print and radio ads.
Why have Exxon, Rio Algom, RTZ, Kennecott, Inmet, Broken Hill and other transnational mining corporations invested so much in subverting democracy in Wisconsin? Because, as always, there’s a quick buck to be made. Mining corporations are crawling all over Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan and Ontario hoping to extract a mineral wealth which for millennia has lain untouched beneath the surface: copper, gold, uranium, zinc, lead, mercury, arsenic, chromium and sulphides.
The resistance to metallic-sulphide mining in Wisconsin has been extensive. Hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites have marched, written letters, voted, made telephone calls, signed petitions and taken part in non-violent blockades, all to stop the mining corporations from damaging their environment.
Wisconsinites are worried that toxic sulphuric acid wastes produced by the proposed mines would contaminate their water, as every metallic-sulphide mine has done in the past. They are concerned that the mining process itself, which uses a great deal of water, will dry up streams and ponds. They are also worried that air pollution from ore processing and coal burnt to power the main operations will further contribute to acid rain and mercury build-up in their lakes.
In addition, townspeople fear that the mining industry will undermine their economy by creating short-term dependency and long-term unemployment for local people. Labour unions are passing anti-mining resolutions and organizing opposition to the corporate take-over. Wisconsin native American communities – Anishinabe, Menominee, Oneida, Ho-Chunk, Potawatomi – are the first to feel the potential brunt of the toxic mining pollution and are fighting the transnationals tooth and nail. Theirs is a struggle of resistance against the destruction of traditional lands and waters.
And what does this struggle mean to people outside the American midwest? Considering that Wisconsin feeds the world with family-farm-produced dairy products, soybeans, cranberries, ginseng, maple sugars, potatoes, grains and more; and considering that Lake Superior is home to 20 per cent of the world’s freshwater reserves, what happens in Wisconsin should be of concern to us all.
Trial and error
Ugandan mothers are guinea pigs
ADRIAN SUTTON /
Last year 400,000 children worldwide under the age of 15 became infected with hiv. If the spread of hiv is not contained, aids may increase infant mortality by as much as 75 per cent and under-five mortality by more than 100 per cent in regions most affected by the disease. By the end of 1997, the United Nations aids research program (UNAIDS) estimates that one million children will be living with hiv.
In a clearing amidst banana trees, 16-year-old Philip Lwaboona gazes down at the unmarked graves of his mother, father, brother and sister. Like so many children in Uganda, Philip is an aids orphan. The forest where he lives in Masaka district, 128 kilometres south-west of Kampala, is eerily silent. Several huts stand empty, witness to a missing generation of men and women who have fallen victim to the hiv virus.
Now the babies are beginning to die: of 100,000 born to hiv-infected mothers, 20,000 will die before their second birthday. Desperate to stop the relentless spread of the virus, Uganda has agreed to take part in a number of controversial trials. Cecilia Ogwal, a leading politician, fears the trials may be exploitative. She warns that people may be used as ‘guinea-pigs for multinational pharmaceutical companies out to make profits’.
Public Citizen, an influential consumer group in the US, has accused researchers of putting hundreds of Ugandan babies’ lives unnecessarily at risk. They say a trial organized by UNAIDS employs research methods that would be considered unethical in Europe or America.
In the trial, 688 pregnant Ugandan women are being given the drugs AZT and 3T to test how effectively the combination prevents hiv transmission from mother to child. A quarter of the women will be given placebos containing nothing but vitamins.
According to Dr Peter Lurie of Public Citizen, a course of AZT reduced transmission so successfully in initial trials in America and France that researchers agreed it was unethical to continue with a placebo group. He maintains that UNAIDS researchers are applying double standards and will be responsible for the babies in the placebo group who become infected and die.
The researchers say the ends justify the means. If the trial is successful it will lead to shorter and thus cheaper treatment. Professor Francis Mmiro, in charge of research at the Mulago Hospital in Kampala, refutes any suggestion that Uganda is being exploited by the West and accuses critics like Peter Lurie of patronizing Uganda by questioning its decision to take part in the trials.
In a country suffering from one of the worst aids epidemics in the world and with a health budget of only $5 a head, it is tempting to think that any additional funds, research and drugs are better than nothing. But pressure from critics inside and outside the country is forcing Uganda to think carefully about the ethics of clinical trials. Promising to tighten the law regulating research, Health Minister Crispus Kiyonga says: ‘We mustn’t just accept anything that’s offered, or we may end up causing even more trouble.’
Jenny Cuffe / BBC Radio’s File on 4
GUY MANSFIELD / PANOS PICTURES
New-born lambs in Aotearoa/New Zealand are being fitted with woollen jumpers to help them survive freezing weather. The garment, called a woolover, covers 95 per cent of a lamb, leaving its head, legs and a narrow strip along its belly exposed. The woolover’s inventor, David Brown, says that eight per cent of the 30 million lambs born in Aotearoa/NZ each year die of hypothermia or starvation.
Source: New Scientist, No 2092
Sultans of timber
South-east Asian timber companies are accruing ever-greater forest concessions overseas. Of these, Sarawak-based Samling is the most notable for the extent of its logging operations, controlling over four million hectares in Brazil, Romania, Cambodia and Guyana. In the latter two countries, Samling controls over ten per cent of the remaining forests.
Source: Environmental Investigation Agency
A chain of shops staffed entirely by robots is being set up in Japan. Shelves around the walls of the Robo Shop Super 24 stores display the goods that shoppers can purchase by using keyboards dotted around the shop. Once a customer has ordered and paid, stockroom robots retrieve the goods and deliver them down a slide to the cash desk. The shops sell more than 2,000 products – from bubble gum to underpants.
Source: New Scientist, No 2091
Since Iran completed the Silk Road railway just over a year ago, trade through Banda Abbas port has risen from 200,000 tons in 1994 to 1.5 million tons last financial year. According to the port’s director, Sayyid Ali Estiri, the railway’s success is down to geography. Iran is the natural corridor for Central Asian goods seeking an outlet to the sea. Before the break-up of the Soviet Union, landlocked nations such as Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan were inextricably bound to the Russian economy: goods went north, or nowhere at all. Now the 2,540-kilometre railway from the Turkmenistan-Iran border to the Gulf is the cheapest, quickest, safest route from central Asia to the Indian Ocean. Iran is now investing millions of precious dollars in an effort to turn its 7,700 kilometres of track into a regional hub that will ensure the country’s economic security, and cushion the blow of dwindling oil reserves.
Source: Middle East International, No 553
‘What moron said that knowledge is power?
Knowledge is power only if it doesn’t depress you so much
that it leaves you in an immobile heap at the end of your bed.’
© Copyright New Internationalist Magazine 1997
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