Yesterday, U.S. president Barack Obama signed the Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act, which requires the U.S. State Department to specifically highlight press freedom issues in its annual review of countries' human rights. According to news reports, the annual human rights review will now explicitly identify whether countries participate in or condone press freedom violations.
What, if any, effect will this have on efforts to promote independent media around the world? Some would say that, at the nuts-and-bolts level, not much. Reforming and opening media sectors requires hard work, including coalition building, technical training, and sustained effort by multiple actors. Rhetoric and reports cannot on their own improve any individual country's press freedom environment.
The recent tragedy in Haiti has brought photos of its people to the international stage. If you didn’t know where Haiti was on a map, you might at first glance assume that it was somewhere in Africa, but it’s not. Most people don’t realize that there are African descendents all over Central and South America and not just in the Caribbean. The remnants of the slave trade go beyond ethnic heritage, however, and are still evident in the almost culturally engrained racism that permeates the region.
And not just to the American people or African-American communities.
Simply put, racism is an international problem and not just an American one.
“Did you kill somebody tonight?” Durga Pokkherel asks the police officer while in police custody in Nepal, after hearing terrified screams. As told in her memoir, Shadow over Shangri-la, the police officer replies: “You always imagine something big. He is not killed. As a routine treatment he was enclosed in a sack and beaten. But he would not speak a word, so some other police friends put a couple pins in his fingers. That is all.”
The dialogue took place in late 1990s, when both Maoists and the state committed human rights abuses in Nepal, a country on the top of the world, where caste, ethnicity, gender status and regional disparities have largely determined inequality. Social exclusion fostered state fragility, a Maoist rebellion, and a civil war that lasted for ten years (1996-2006).
After an unpopular royal coup in February 2005, the international community put pressure on the government to accept international monitoring under the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The monitoring created the space for peaceful political protest and, in April 2006, the King restored Parliament. Civil war came to an end with elections and the declaration of the Federal Republic of Nepal in May 2008.
I’ve heard about Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues (TVM) since I was in high school, but it’s only around 7 years later that I decided be part of the cast. I am about to graduate from university and deeply regret that I’ve only taken an active part in this when about to finally leave the halls of my school.