Archive for the ‘Freedom of expression’ Category
By Jan Oberg
It’s probably unusual that a research organisation’s photos go viral – and do so in spite of the mainstream media’s manifest lack of interest in their story.
But the photos I took in Aleppo in Syria December 10-14, 2016 have been seen here by well over 100.000 people around the world, exclusively by organic, non-paid online sharing.
In addition they’ve been linked to and presented by media in the alternative press and social media in about 20 countries, sites such as Telesur, Heise/Telepolis and Pressenza literally reaching millions.
I am proud of having helped bring out the story of these people unworthy, as it seems, of the attention of the West. Because they were the majority from Eastern Aleppo who were happy to be liberated and remained in what is now government-controlled areas.
Keep focus on Aleppo – #keepfocusonaleppo
Aleppo’s liberation was a local, national, regional and global event. Why?
Because of Aleppo’s history, beauty, architecture and industrial importance (50% of Syria’s industrial capacity within the huge Sheikh Najjar Industrial City).
Because, before the war, it had swelled from about 2 million to some 3 million people due to the environmental crisis that hit Syria.
Because its Eastern part was occupied in 2012 by what I call RIOTs – Rebels, Insurgents, Opposition, Terrorists – most of the latter – who over 4,5 years created a living hell for the innocent citizens in that part.
Because of the complete and systematic destruction of this cultural jewel, Aleppo, predominantly by street-to-street fighting (max 5-10% of it caused by bombardments from the air).
Because RIOTs were supported with money, weapons and ammunition by the US, France, Britain and Turkey in particular – i.e. most of NATO – plus Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States – and most media reports have come from that side of the war.
Because Aleppo’s liberation was a turning point in this six years’ long evil war that has created the largest humanitarian crisis anywhere in the world since 1945.
What happened didn’t fit the dominant, deceptive Western media narrative. The large majority of people in Eastern Aleppo went to the dictator’s (” “) government-controlled side while a minority – the RIOT fighters/occupiers and their families – went to Turkey, Idlib and other RIOT-controlled areas.
More about the importance of Aleppo in TFF PressInfo # 405.
But do see the pictures of the incomprehensible, surreal destruction and of the victims of Aleppo. The victims who were happy to have been liberated from 4,5 years of hell. About these victims you have heard almost nothing since mid-December last year.
The photos are unique since I was among the first twenty or so to get in there and talk with and photograph these people – freely. I was the only person from Scandinavia.
No leading Western mainstream media were present there and then. They sat in Beirut, Istanbul and Berlin telling you stories about the likely “new Srebrenica”, massacres and even ‘genocide’ that would follow when Syria’s dictator again controlled Aleppo.
It turned out to be just that. Fake news.
My photos were Real news. You won’t see them at CNN, BBC, New York Times, Reuters, AFP, AP and those who repeat them.
(Please respect the © provisions of these images)
And more photo stories to come from Syria.
By Johan Galtung
February 13, 2017
What is the essence of democracy?
“Rule with the consent of the ruled” implies two classes of people, Rulers and Ruled; concretely State and People, Statism. “Free and Fair Elections” implies voting for a Parliament; Parliamentarism. Together, a three-tier power structure State-Parliament-People; with People controlling Parliament, and Parliament controlling State.
In 2016 some voting differed from what State-Parliament expected; leading to talk about elitist vs populist democracy – from statism and parliamentarism to peopleism. A crisis. And talk about post-democracy.
Another answer about democratic essence is “one-tier self-ruling units”; no rulers vs ruled, and decisions are made by general assemblies for all. This is often referred to as Anarchism, “no structure”. A misnomer: there is no State and no Parliament, but many assemblies. A concrete interpretation would be Localism, the units being local authorities – LAs, municipalities; the assemblies being their municipal councils.
A key dimension then becomes the level of state control of LAs. In Spain, with an anarchist ideological tradition, the LAs are strong.
A different, not institutional – more philosophical, intellectual in general – answer would pick up words like transparency and dialogue.
Democracy is a context with everything in the open, no closed doors, available to everlasting people dialogue: by way of the word, logos. Fine for people who are good with words.
How about those who are not, Read the rest of this entry »
By Jan Oberg
On the occasion of NATO’s defence minister meeting on February 15-16 discussing NATO, Ukraine, Crimea, Syria and the eternal threat images which are fake – with former Assistant Secretary of Defence of the United States, Mr. Lawrence J. Korb.
I’m afraid he got some stuff wrong such as the establishment of NATO and whether or not Kosovo is part of the Balkans.
He also believed that NATO’s 1999 bombing of Serbia-Kosovo had a UN Security Council mandate.
Enjoy those small moment and the rest where I am trying to present some more general thourght on why the whole NATO philosophy is outdated – the only point where I agree with President Trump…
Media experience and policy
What they don’t seem to have acknowledged is that tons of Westerners are being interviewed and do commenting (like myself for years) at these media. Here is Mr. Korb with me at Iran’s international TV channel.
What they also don’t know is something I am sorry to report: I’ve met attempts at manipulation and “editing” and censorship with a series of Western mainstream media, not the least in my native Denmark, but I have not experience any of that even once with Russia Today and PressTV. Very decent professionals!
So much for the free press and for the propaganda channels. My personal problems is, which is which?
A personal pledge provoked by the debates about Syria
About 95% of all debates about conflicts and war that we see in politics, mainstream media, the Internet and social media focus on the violence, who uses more or less of it and who is, therefore, the evil party.
This approach places direct violence – such as human rights violations, killings, bombings etc. – in the centre of the attention and that is unfortunate because violence is always only a symptom. I call this the simplifying or reductionist approach; invariably it has populist connotations too and usually ends up in mud-slinging.
I argue in this analysis that this reductionist approach is counterproductive and that – because of the defining characteristics of these debates – the underlying conflicts/problems that cause the violence are never in focus and that no international complex conflict can be explained even rudimentarily by asserting that one single individual’s personality or behaviour is the root cause, the problem or the conflict itself.
Secondly, I explain what makes the reductionist approach so typical and ‘natural’ in the eyes of Westerners. We have to be aware of the deficits of this entire approach to conflict which, I argue, is also related to Western ways of thinking, including Christianity. (You may jump this section if you are more attracted to practical implications than to philosophy).
The third section deals with the conflict and peace approach as an alternative – arguing that only through that can we arrive at the necessary dimension: How can the violence stop and how can the conflicting parties change their perceptions, attitudes and the problem/conflict that stands between them so that peace can unfold. Like the science of medicine, it has a focus on the disease and we do a Diagnosis, Prognosis and Treatment by finding the root causes rather than just treating symptoms.
Finally I make the pledge to never again participate in discussions within the reductionist discourse of the violence and who-is-good-and-who-is-bad. I will spend my energy, instead, on the constructive conflict and peace approach that is also the only one that will benefit the innocent victims in conflict zone, the people who have never even thought of taking up arms.
In short, it is a refusal to let the violence and ‘evil’ individuals take centre stage in any discourse and instead look at problems and their resolution together with peace-building and thus – Gandhian style – let non-violence and peace-making by peaceful means take centre stage:
Since this author is a peace and future researcher, I shall no longer participate in any discussion or debate about a conflict or war in which the main focus is on the direct violence and one or more participants point out that they know who the bad guy is and seek to frame or place me on this or that or the other side.
Under “PS” you’ll find my four-part view on matter of justice which of course is part and parcel of peace-building.
• • •
I’ve experienced it repeatedly over the last good 20 years, since the bad old days of Yugoslavia’s dissolution wars and I see it now, only more viciously, in the discussions about Syria in the old media as well as the social media:
If you are not clearly supporting party A to a conflict you must be a supporter of B.
From that follows:
Since I am in favour of the good guy A, you are a bad guy because you side with B (or don’t side with A).
This approach can be categorised as simplistic and reductionist. It prevents an understanding of what a conflict is about and hinders peace thinking and proposals.
It also amounts to legitimating more war.
This approach is wrong and counterproductive because invariably it:
1) builds on the assumption that there are only two sides in a conflict; that is never the case in complex international conflict;
2) builds on the either/or fallacy that you must be pro-B since you are not pro-A, overlooking the simply fact that one could also sympathize with party C and/or M and/or V; alternatively that all participants behave in such a manner that you sympathise with no one;
3) focuses on parties, or actors, and not on the underlying problems that make the parties fight each other;
4) satisfies people’s more or less narcissistic need for being right and being confirmed as being morally superior – irrespective of whether or not they understand the issues;
5) builds implicitly upon the assumption that the two parties represent Good and Evil and that all of the good ones are on one side, all of the bad ones on the other;
6) creates endless, sterile debates Read the rest of this entry »
By Jan Oberg
These two top officials behind major US wars (Iran/Afghanistan and Vietnam/Cambodia/Laos) and regime change (against Allende, Chile) will speak at the first of a new event, The Nobel Peace Prize Forum Oslo, created by the Nobel Institute in Oslo. More here.
The leaders of the two institutions declare that they are proud to have succeeded in getting these two diplomats to Norway – and the media of course will be there. The event is sponsored by the California-based company InCircl – a marketing and mobile payment company.
These two experts on warfare and interventionism will – Orwellian style – speak about “The United States and World Peace After The Presidential Election”.
This is the country that, since 1980, has intervened violently in Iran, Libya, Lebanon, Kuwait, Iraq, Somalia, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Sudan, Kosova/Serbia, Yemen, Pakistan, Syria, i.e. 14 Muslim countries. It has some 630 base facilities in 130+ countries. It has its US Special Forces (SOF) in 133 countries.
It has used nuclear weapons without apology and owns the second largest arsenal of nuclear weapons.
The US stands for about 40% of the world’s military expenditures, is the world’s leading arms exporter and has killed more people than anybody else since 1945. It’s the master of (imprecise) drone strikes. It presently supports Saudi Arabia’s bestial war on Yemen and conducts a military build-up in Asia and the Pacific planning, as it seems, for what looks like a future confrontation with China. And not with terribly positive results in its Middle East policies since 1945.
So with all these credentials, please tell us about world peace!
The U.S. should be seen as quite Read the rest of this entry »
By Richard Falk
August 10, 2016
An earlier version was published by Middle East Eye on August 10, 2016. It seems so important at this time for the sake of the future of Turkey that the West look at the country and its political circumstances in a far more balanced way than how the situation has been portrayed since the coup. How to explain this imbalance is another matterthat should be explored at some point, but for now is largely put aside.
Much uncertainty remains in Turkey, but there is enough evidence of positive tendencies to raise a tentative banner of hope. Being a witness to the political atmosphere in Turkey that has emerged after the failed coup of July 15th puts me at odds with the secular consensus in the West, which looks up at the sky and sees only dark, ominous clouds of human rights abuse and autocratic leadership.
What I have experienced and observed so far is quite different, a sky with much blue in it.
There are two opposed, although overlapping, tendencies present that seemed to be responsive to the political priorities that top the post-coup government agenda: sustaining the anti-coup unity by shifting political gears within the AKP leadership circles in the direction of “inclusive democracy” and pragmatism, and with it, a retreat from the polarizing claims of “majoritarian democracy” that greatly intensified after the 2011 national elections and were particularly evident in the clumsy, unacceptable way the Turkish government handled the Gezi Park demonstrations two years later.
The most important concrete embodiment of this post-15 July move toward inclusiveness has been a series of initatives intended to create a common front between the three leading political parties in the country, including the CHP (secular mainstream) and MHP (nationalist rightest) opposition parties.
This has been reinforced by several other developments, Read the rest of this entry »
By Farhang Jahanpour
Since the latest Iranian elections held on 26th February 2016 for the 290-seat parliament (Majles) and the 88-member Assembly of Experts there have been many negative comments about the election results from the usual suspects.
Some people who are fundamentally hostile to Iran, criticize everything that Iran does, regardless of outcome. When the leading Iranian reformist candidate Mohammad Khatami won a landslide election in 1997 and initiated a series of important reforms at home and advocated a dialog of civilizations and even made a remarkable offer to the United States to reach a grand bargain over all the issues of contention, some pro-Israeli groups dismissed him, saying that he had no power.
However, when President Mahmud Ahmadinezhad made a number of outrageous comments, not only were his statements taken out of context and exaggerated, it was said that he posed an existential threat to Israel and the West.
Some people are at least honest about their real motives. During the controversial election in 2009 when Ahmadinezhad was declared the winner over the reformist candidate Mir-Hoseyn Moussavi, some American neoconservatives and Israeli commentators openly said that they preferred Ahmadinezhad because they could demonize him more easily.
“Just because Moussavi is called a moderate or a reformist doesn’t mean he’s a nice guy. After all he was approved by the Islamic leadership,” said Ephraim Inbar, director of the Begin Sadat Center at Bar Ilan University. “If we have Ahmadinejad, we know where we stand. If we have Moussavi we have a serpent with a nice image.” The then Mossad Chief, Meir Dagan, told a panel of Israeli lawmakers: “If the reformist candidate Moussavi had won, Israel would have had a more serious problem, because it would need to explain to the world the danger of the Iranian threat.”
Recently, the staunchly anti-Iranian lobby, The Israel Project (TIP), produced a promotional video showing the leader of the terrorist group, the Mojahedin-e Khalq, denouncing the latest Iranian elections. This is despite the fact that before some right-wing pro-Israeli groups had decided to promote this terrorist group as a popular opposition group, in 2011 TIP director Josh Block had described the group as a terrorist organization. (1) Nevertheless, now his organization calls upon the same group to denounce the Iranian elections.
However, despite all this negative propaganda, the results of the latest Iranian elections exceeded all expectations. The elections set another milestone in the desire of the Iranian people for change and reform following the 2013 presidential election that resulted in the victory of the centrist candidate Hassan Rouhani.
Ever since the victory of the Islamic revolution, the government has held flawed, but competitive and relatively free and fair elections. In order to appreciate the significance of the election results, we should look at some of the obstacles that had been placed on the path of the reformists and moderates.
The right-wing Guardian Council, formed by six clerics appointed by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and six appointed by the head of the judiciary, who is himself appointed by Khamenei, has the job of vetting all the candidates who run for high office in Iran. In the absence of organized political parties, anybody can declare himself or herself a candidate in presidential or parliamentary elections, and normally many unqualified people do so.
Therefore, there is a need for a vetting organization, but the criticism against the Guardian Council is that it does not act in a fair and impartial manner.
During the recent elections, Read the rest of this entry »
By Jan Oberg
Or, where there is a will, there is a way
2001 – the ‘war on terror’
The war on terror was initiatied after 9/11 – Afghanistan 10/7. Denmark went along without thinking. The idea came from Washington, so what was there to think about?
At the time about 400 people were killed in international terrorism per year; today the Global Terror Index informs us that 32.000 people are killed in terrorism. It must be the stupidest war in modern time and the majority of the victims are found in the Middle East, not in Europe and not in the US.
But we bomb – and create more terrorism. And more refugees. Politics having become anti-intellectual and devoid of ethical considerations, few connect the dots. Fewer see Denmark’s own co-responsibility for causing the problems and even fewer see the moral responsibility of taking care. No, steal their belongings.
It was prime minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen of the liberal Party, Venstre (meaning left but it’s neo-liberal right) whose government made Denmark an occupying power in Iraq over four years (2003-2007). By any standards the most serious foreign policy blunder of Danish foreign policy since 1945.
Asked recently on Danish television how he felt about the tragic situation in today’s Iraq he answered that – well, we stretched out our hand to the Iraqi people but unfortunately they didn’t take it.
No remorse there, Mr. Always Right. But quite a statement when you are a non-convicted war criminal having joined a project that killed about 1 million Iraqis during war, occupation and 13 years of sanction. The Danish politicians and people are still, it seems, unable or unwilling to understand the dimensions of this blunder – which is one reason they also don’t understand today what it means to be a refugee.
It was under his leadership – or lack if it – the Muhamed caricatures became a diplomatic disaster. He refused to meet with Muslim leaders in Denmark and also ignored a letter of concern from the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the global voice of Muslims with 57 member states and 1,6 billion people.
Probably no one in the PM’s and foreign minister’s office had a clue what the OIC was.
But he did know who Khadaffi was when later, rewarded for his good deeds by the US and catapulted to S-G of NATO, he spearheaded the coalition member states’ violation of the very limited UN mandate, their destruction of that country and the killing of Khadaffi. Read the rest of this entry »
By Jonathan Power
Political freedom is going down.
Date: January 27th 2016.
Life, said Martin Luther King “is a long and desolate corridor with no exit sign”. He must have said that when his spirits were flagging as most of the time he was optimistic about making the world a better place.
I was reminded of this when reading a new report, “Freedom in the World, 2016”, written by the US-based Freedom House. For the tenth consecutive year, it says, freedom has declined.
72 countries slipped back in the amount of political, civil rights and press freedom they allowed their citizens. 43 countries made gains. However, to keep it in proportion, the number of countries which are free is much higher than when the Cold War ended. Moreover, the overwhelming majority of countries going backwards have small populations.
This report has given my own optimistic spirit a bang over the head. In the first decade after the Cold War I used to quote Freedom House whose annual reports showed democracy and freedom gaining ground across the world at a rapid rate. Read the rest of this entry »