Розмова, поміж іншого, стосувалася «зусиль США із посилення українських збройних сил через надання оборонної допомоги»
Autocratic leaders are facing a democratic backlash from their people in several countries around the world, according to the organization Human Rights Watch in its annual global report, which was published Thursday.
The report said that in the past 12 months there have been a series of military coups and crackdowns on opposition figures.
In Myanmar, the military seized power last February and ousted the democratically elected government, jailing President Win Myint and State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi.
In Nicaragua, opposition members were jailed on treason charges ahead of the November election, as President Daniel Ortega consolidated power.
In Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni was re-elected in January 2021 after security forces arrested and beat opposition supporters and journalists, killed protesters, and disrupted opposition rallies.
“The conventional wisdom these days is that autocrats are in the ascendancy and democratic leaders are in the decline, but when we looked back over the last year, we found that that view is actually too superficial, too simplistic,” said Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, in an interview with VOA.
In fact, there are encouraging signs of democratic uprisings, Roth said. “There’s an emergence of a series of popular demonstrations, popular protests for democracy against the autocrat. And we’ve seen this in a range of countries: in Thailand, Myanmar and Sudan, in Uganda, Nicaragua, Cuba, Poland, many parts of the world, these outpourings of support for human rights, for democracy, and against autocratic rule.”
Despite the optimistic tone, the report catalogues the suppression of democracy and human rights in more than 100 countries. Tens of thousands of opposition activists, human rights defenders and civilians have been jailed, beaten or killed.
In Russia, opposition leader Alexey Navalny remains in prison on parole-related violations after surviving a nerve agent attack he blamed on the Kremlin. Russia denied involvement.
“The legislative crackdown that started in November 2020 intensified ahead of the September 2021 general elections,” the Human Rights Watch report says. “Numerous newly adopted laws broadened the authorities’ grounds to target a wide range of independent voices. Authorities used some of these laws and other measures, to smear, harass, and penalize human rights defenders, journalists, independent groups, political adversaries, and even academics. Many left Russia for their own safety or were expelled. Authorities took particular aim at independent journalism.”
Since December 2020, the report says, “the number of individuals and entities (that) authorities branded (as) ‘foreign media—foreign agent’ exploded, reaching 94 by early November. Most are prominent investigative journalists and independent outlets,” the report said.
Human Rights Watch says Moscow continues to suppress democracy at home and lend support to autocrats overseas, including President Alexander Lukashenko in Belarus, who has jailed hundreds of anti-government demonstrators and activists following the 2020 election that critics say was rigged.
Russia earlier this month sent troops to Kazakhstan to help its autocratic president, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, crush anti-government protests. Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, continues to offer military support to his Syrian ally, Bashar al-Assad, who is accused of crimes against humanity in his brutal suppression of the 2011 uprising and its aftermath.
The report says China has locked up thousands of pro-democracy activists and has intensified its crackdown on democratic freedoms in Hong Kong following the imposition of the National Security Law on the territory.
“With President Xi Jinping at the helm, the Chinese government doubled down on repression inside and outside the country in 2021. Its ‘zero-tolerance’ policy towards COVID-19 strengthened the authorities’ hand, as they imposed harsh policies in the name of public health,” the Human Rights Watch report says.
“Authorities (are) committing crimes against humanity as part of a widespread and systematic attack on Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang, including mass detention, torture, and cultural persecution. Tibetans continued to be subjected to grave abuses, including harsh and lengthy imprisonment for exercising their basic rights,” the report adds. China has denied committing abuses in Xinjiang.
Rule by force
Roth says, despite the seemingly overwhelming force wielded by oppressive states, there is cause for hope.
“To maintain power by force is a very short-term strategy. If you look at Myanmar where the junta performed a coup almost a year ago, all they have is force. The entire population is against them. I think in Sudan, the military is facing something similar. They’ve just ousted the civilian prime minister, but they now face such a hostile population,” Roth told VOA.
The report says that in countries that still permit reasonably fair elections, opposition politicians – and electorates – are getting more sophisticated.
“We’ve seen the emergence in a number of countries that still permit reasonably fair elections of broad political coalitions, alliances for democracy. And we saw these coalitions oust Prime Minister (Andrej) Babiš in the Czech Republic, they got rid of (Benjamin) Netanyahu in Israel, they were really behind the coalition that chose Joe Biden to contest (U.S. President) Donald Trump. And today in Hungary and in Turkey, Prime Minister (Viktor) Orbán and President (Recep Tayyip) Erdogan are facing similar broad coalitions that are really putting their grasp on power in jeopardy,” Roth said.
Human Rights Watch says the leaders of democratic countries must end their support for autocratic regimes, like Saudi Arabia and Egypt – and they must do a better job of delivering for their own people.
“Particularly today when there really are big global challenges, climate change, the pandemic, poverty and inequality, the threats from technology. These are huge problems that demand visionary leadership,” Roth told VOA.
“But instead, typically we’re getting from democratic leaders minimalism, incremental change, really short-term steps, and that’s not enough. If that’s all that they can come up with, they’re going to generate despair and frustration, which are going to be a breeding ground for a second wind for the autocrats.”
The Human Rights Watch report strikes an optimistic tone – but cautions that the “outcome of the battle between autocracy and democracy remains uncertain.”
Despite a series of military coups and opposition crackdowns in dozens of countries, there are encouraging signs of democratic uprisings around the world, according to the latest annual report from the organization Human Rights Watch, published Thursday. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
«Коли було 120 справ, починаючи від Томосу і закінчуючи Мінськими угодами, я це ще терпів. Але це вже друга справа про державну зраду»
A SpaceX rocket launch Thursday carried three small South African-made satellites that will help with policing South African waters against illegal fishing operations.
Produced at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, the satellites could also be used to help other African countries to protect their coastal waters.
SpaceX’s billionaire boss Elon Musk has given three nano satellites produced in his birth country, South Africa, a ride into space.
The company’s Falcon rocket launched from Cape Canaveral in the U.S. state of Florida with 105 spacecraft on board. All three South African satellites deployed successfully.
This mission, known as Transporter 3, is part of SpaceX’s rideshare program which in two previous outings has put over 220 small satellites into orbit.
The three South African nano satellites on this trip were designed at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology’s Africa Space Innovation Centre.
The institution’s deputy vice chancellor for research, technology and innovation Professor David Phaho says “it marks a quantum leap in terms of South Africa’s capability to participate in the space sector. As you can imagine the issue of oceans economy has become topical globally. And the fact that we’ve developed this capacity in South Africa, and we are launching this (sic) satellites will go a long way in enhancing our capabilities to monitor our coastline and grow our economy.”
Phaho notes the university has been building up to the launch of these satellites, known collectively as MDASat-1, with a previous satellite launch in 2018.
“These three satellites, there was a precursor to these current three satellite constellation. Zcube2 is the most advanced nano satellite developed on the African continent and it was launched in December 2018 so these ones are basically part and parcel of that development. And they are probably the most advanced nano satellites developed on the African continent,” Phaho expressed.
Stephen Cupido studied at the space center and graduated in 2014. Today, he works here as a software engineer and points out that “it’s been a ride, it’s been amazing, ups and downs but this is definitely an up today. Just to get everything ready for today has been a lot of pressure.”
And the interaction with SpaceX has been complicated he says laughing “but it’s necessary. We are putting objects in space and space is for everyone, we have to keep it safe for everybody so we understand the paperwork involved but we’ve got all the information through to them. They’re launching our satellite so everything is in order.”
The university paid almost $260,000 to secure its spot on the SpaceX craft. It says it hopes to continue the relationship with Elon Musk’s company.
Міністр інфраструктури Молдови заявив, що ціна на газ для країни зросла з 550 доларів за тисячу кубометрів у грудні до 647 доларів
A new Hong Kong mandate that restaurants and other establishments require use of an app aimed at recording people’s locations and telling them if they have been near a COVID-19 patient has spurred opposition from the city’s pro-democracy voices.
The LeaveHomeSafe app scans a two-dimensional QR barcode at taxis and other locations. If a COVID-19 patient has been there, the app will alert users and provide health advice. The government required the use of the app Dec. 9 in all indoor premises including government buildings, restaurants, public facilities, and karaoke venues. Those over the age of 65, 15 years or younger, the homeless and those with disabilities are exempt.
Previously Hong Kongers could record these movements using a paper form, but the cursive characters written by opposition Hong Kongers or pro-democracy activists expressing their distrust in government were often illegible for authorities.
Hong Kongers believe the app can be a tool used by authorities to monitor citizens, according to a human rights advocate.
“Given Beijing’s use of mass surveillance in China, many Hong Kong people suspect that the app is one way for the Hong Kong and Beijing governments to normalize the use of government surveillance in Hong Kong,” Human Rights Watch senior China researcher Maya Wang told VOA by email.
An office worker in her 20s entering a Taiwanese restaurant recently was one of the Hong Kongers harboring doubts about the app. Before entering the restaurant, she said she stopped texting on her phone to use a second phone to scan the restaurant’s QR code using LeaveHomeSafe.
“It’s an act of human right and privacy violation as we can no longer choose the way we live and the app is part of the digital surveillance system,” she told VOA, referring to the government app.
Government officials sought to allay such privacy concerns last February, as health secretary Sophia Chan said the COVID-19 tracking app would not send personal data to the authorities.
“The fact is there is no issue of data privacy, because the data would be just stored in the phone of the person. There is no platform that collects those data,” Chan told reporters.
Hong Kong also has a new Health Code app for people to show they have not been exposed to COVID-19 to travel to mainland China, using LeaveHomeSafe records. The LeaveHomeSafe privacy statement says users are required to upload their visit records from the app to the health code system “only with their express consent” and “at their sole discretion.”
“The visit record, which by itself in isolation is not personal data, will be kept in users’ mobile phones for 31 days and will then be erased automatically,” the privacy statement adds.
The government announced the requirement for broader use of the LeaveHomeSafe app in November, before the omicron variant and when Hong Kong’s confirmed infection number was in single digits.
The government said in a statement then it had made the decision “amid the severe COVID-19 pandemic situation across the world” and that “it strives to foster favourable conditions for resuming cross-boundary travel with the Mainland and cross-border travel in the future.”
Wang said Hong Kongers are right to be suspicious of the government’s intentions with the tracing app.
Even though Hong Kong differs from China in significant ways, such as a privacy ordinance that protected people’s privacy for many years, she said, “these legal protections are increasingly being undermined as Beijing and Hong Kong governments do away with other protections of civil liberties, such as a free press and freedom of expression.”
The announcement of the mandate followed a clampdown on the use of the fake version of the app in the same month. The police arrested five people for using fake apps.
Two were confirmed to be arrested on suspicion of using false instruments — the same charge for using a falsified passport or fabricated visa to enter the city — that can send offenders to prison for up to 14 years and incur up to about $19,000 in penalty.
Officials have long been wary of certain residents’ opposition to the use of the app. In September, the police arrested three core members, aged 18-20, of the pro-democracy student activism group Student Politicism under the national security law.
They have been charged with conspiracy to incite subversion for “stirring hatred towards the government … including urging people not to use the LeaveHomeSafe app and to fill in fake [personal] information on the paper forms,” Steve Li Kwai-wah, superintendent of the police national security department told media in a September press conference.
Eric Lai, researcher at Georgetown University’s Center for Asian Law, said the measure seeks to “repress” Hong Kongers’ rights.
“The government of Hong Kong has a track record of using COVID-preventive measures to repress the exercise of citizen’s rights, such as the use of social distancing rules to criminalize citizens protesting in public sites” he told VOA by email.
The police were accused of targeting restaurants and shops that support democracy by conducting checks only in such shops, according to local media StandNews, which is now closed.
Many of such shops complained about losing the freedom not to use the app and said they would offer carry-out orders that do not require its use instead.
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Дипломати та авіаперевізник працюють над якнайшвидшим відновленням рейсів Алмати – Київ, кажуть в МЗС
Найнижчий рівень готовності до участі в акціях протесту спостерігається на сході України
Сирійця визнали винним у нагляді за вбивствами 27 людей у 2011 та 2012 роках у місті Дума
The European Union’s drug regulator is warning that too many doses of COVID-19 vaccines could eventually weaken the body’s immune system, rendering the extra shots ineffective.
Marco Cavaleri, the head of vaccine strategy for the European Medicines Agency, said earlier this week that booster shots can be administered “once, or maybe twice, but it’s not something that we think should be repeated constantly.” Cavaleri said instead that boosters should be administered just like an annual flu vaccination.
Cavaleri is the latest health expert to urge against offering a fourth shot of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine in an effort to provide extra protection against emerging variants of the coronavirus. Britain’s Health Security Agency said last week there was “no immediate need” for people to get a fourth shot, as the current booster regimens are providing good levels of protection. The World Health Organization has repeatedly said that providing first doses to poorer nations is a higher priority than richer nations offering boosters.
In China, authorities in the central city of Xi’an have ordered two hospitals to temporarily shut down amid reports they denied treatment for critical patients in two incidents. A pregnant woman suffered a miscarriage after personnel at Gaoxin Hospital refused to admit her because she did not have a valid COVID-19 test. Meanwhile, a woman posted on social media that her father died of a heart ailment after he was refused treatment at Xi’an International Medical Center.
The city of 13 million people, home of the world-famous Terracotta Warrior sculptures, has been under strict lockdown protocols since December, sparked by a wave of COVID-19 infections driven by the delta variant of the coronavirus. Residents have not been allowed to leave their homes unless they have essential jobs or are undergoing testing, which has led to a massive backlash.
At least three-quarters of all teachers in France walked out of their classrooms Thursday to protest what they said are the government’s inconsistent COVID-19 health protocols for educators and students.
France’s largest teachers union, SNUipp-FSU, says the strike “demonstrates the growing despair in schools” as the government has issued three changes in coronavirus testing rules in the space of a week. Teachers are also angry over a lack of highly protective masks and air quality monitors.
Separately, France’s minister of tourism says it will relax restrictions on travelers from Britain effective Friday. Fully vaccinated visitors will not be required to enter into quarantine upon their arrival, nor will they have to provide a compelling reason for traveling to France, but will still have to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 24 hours of their trip.
Some information for this report came from Agence France-Presse.
За словами Пєскова, Москва вкрай негативно ставиться до проєкту санкцій, який напередодні був представлений демократами в Сенаті США
Прем’єр-міністр Австралії Скотт Моррісон заявив 13 січня, що його уряд ще не ухвалив рішення щодо скасування візи Джоковича
Супутник дистанційного зондування землі «СІЧ-2-30» розробили та виготовили фахівці державного конструкторського бюро «Південне» в Дніпрі
When a gunfight erupted during clashes in Diyarbakir in October 2014, video journalist Rojhat Dogru was at the center of the action.
At one point, a little too close. Hit by a bullet, Dogru was rushed to a hospital, where he uploaded footage to the Iraq-based Gali Kurdistan TV while being treated.
The coverage won Dogru an award but now, seven years after the clashes, the video journalist is fighting a life sentence.
A court in Diyarbakir last week issued the sentence after convicting Dogru of “disrupting the unity and integrity of the state.” It further sentenced him to 10 years and 10 months for “attempted deliberate killing,” and a year and three months for “propagandizing for a terrorist organization.”
The verdict has appalled press freedom advocates.
“This is the heaviest punishment I’ve seen recently. There is no murder, no bombing, but it is just news coverage,” Veysel Ok, co-director of Turkey’s Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA), told VOA.
As a Kurdish journalist, Dogru covered events in Diyarbakir and the region for Gali Kurdistan TV, including footage on what is known as the Kobani protests in 2014. That coverage earned him a Southeastern Journalists Association award.
Protests broke out that year after pro-Kurdish groups claimed Ankara was reluctant to help Kurds in Kobani, a city in neighboring Syria besieged by the Islamic State militants.
Police were called in as the protests turned violent, with clashes between supporters of the Free Cause Party, an offshoot of a violent Kurdish Islamist militant group, and PKK supporters. The PKK is designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. and Turkey.
Official figures put the death toll at 37, and an indictment in the mass court case lists hundreds wounded as well as schools and public buildings damaged and over 1,700 homes and businesses looted.
The Turkish government accuses the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) of instigating the protests, and over 100 people, including former HDP co-chairs Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag, have stood trial for the protests.
The HDP denies the charges against it.
From awards to lawsuits
In an interview about his coverage that day, Dogru spoke of the crucial role journalists play in documenting such events.
“I took the footage of the moments when two groups shot each other on the streets in an unbiased and objective way. This footage was crucial in terms of showing that both sides in the conflict had weapons in their hands,” Dogru said in an article published on the MLSA’s website days before the court issued its verdict.
“Although I was injured, I continued to take a video. I even took video of the moments when I was injured with my camera,” Dogru said.
The journalist was left needing treatment for injuries to his chin, stomach and leg.
The first lawsuit against Dogru was filed three years after the clashes, the journalist’s lawyer, Resul Temur, told VOA.
The plaintiff, named in some reports as Ridvan Ozdemir, alleges he was caught in the clashes and injured by a gun fired from Dogru’s direction.
Ozdemir alleged that Dogru shot him, and a case was filed on charges of “disrupting the unity and integrity of the state” and “attempted deliberate killing.”
Dogru denied the allegation, telling the MLSA “it is beyond normal to shoot with a gun in one hand while taking a footage with the camera in the other.”
He added that an expert witness watched the footage and, in a report filed with the court, said that Dogru had not used a gun.
During the trial, said Temur, the plaintiff did not remember whether Dogru was holding a camera.
“We said that it was strange that he did not remember the camera but remembered the gun,” Temur said.
More charges followed in 2018 when authorities allegedly found Dogru’s number on a PKK member detained by the police in Diyarbakir.
In December of that year, Dogru was held in pretrial detention on accusations of “membership of a terrorist organization.” He was released in February 2019 under judicial control.
A judge in Diyarbakir later combined the legal charges into one case, which reached its conclusion on January 6.
An arrest warrant was also issued for the journalist, who did not attend the hearing in person.
Temur told VOA they have appealed and called the trial “biased.”
‘A heavy price’
The verdict astonished press freedom advocates who believe that a higher court should reverse it on appeal.
“It is against the nature of the job of a cameraman to shoot with one hand and use a gun with another. This was refuted by the expert report [in the court]. So, the punishment is not acceptable,” Mucahit Ceylan, president of the Southeast Journalists Association, told VOA.
“In this region at critical times, [Dogru] risked his own life to cover the news, was injured, and now he is punished,” Ceylan said.
He believes the verdict will be overturned on appeal.
Ok, the MLSA co-director, was also shocked by the heavy sentence.
“Of course, there is a possibility that this will be reverted from the Constitution and European Court of Human Rights, but [until then] he will eventually spend years in prison,” Ok told VOA. “A heavy price will be paid, and there is nothing legal about it.”
This story originated in VOA’s Turkish Service.
Efforts to de-escalate tensions along the Russia-Ukraine border shift Thursday to Vienna and a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Permanent Council.
The session follows a bilateral meeting between Russia and the United States in Geneva on Monday and talks Wednesday in Brussels between Russia and NATO.
U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters that after Thursday’s meeting, the parties involved would reflect on the discussions and “determine appropriate next steps.”
Price said Wednesday the United States expects the Russian delegations to the three sets of meetings will “have to report back to [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin, who we all hope will choose peace and security, and knowing that we are sincere, and that we are steadfast when we say we prefer the course of diplomacy and dialogue.”
The United States and its NATO allies have urged Russia to de-escalate tensions and for the situation to be resolved diplomatically, and on Wednesday offered ideas for reciprocal actions to reduce risks, improve transparency and communication and arms control.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, who led the U.S. delegation in Brussels, said the NATO-Russia meeting ended with “a sober challenge” for Moscow to reduce tensions and “choose the path of diplomacy, to continue to engage in honest and reciprocal dialogue so that together we can identify solutions that enhance the security of all,” during a press conference.
After the nearly four-hour meeting on Wednesday, Sherman said, “there was no commitment to de-escalate, nor was there a statement that there would not be.”
She added Russia heard loudly and clearly it is very hard to have diplomacy when 100,000 of its troops are massed along the Ukrainian border, and as live fire exercises are being conducted.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said he has proposed the idea of a series of meetings with Russia, which asked for time to return with an answer.
“NATO allies are ready to engage in dialogue with Russia, but we will not compromise on core principles, we will not compromise on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of every nation in Europe,” Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels.
Russia has sought security guarantees such as the withdrawal of NATO troops and military equipment from countries that border Russia, and limiting the expansion of the 30-member NATO alliance. It has also denied it has plans to invade Ukraine.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko told reporters Wednesday that the discussions with NATO were deep and substantive, but said Russia does not seriously consider NATO to be a defensive alliance that poses no threat to Russia.
“If NATO opts for the policy of deterrence, we will respond with a policy of counter-deterrence,” Grushko said. “If it turns to intimidation, we will respond with counter-intimidation. If it looks for vulnerabilities in Russia’s defense system, we will look for NATO’s vulnerabilities. It’s not our choice, but we don’t have other options if we don’t overturn this current very dangerous course of events.”
Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy proposed a new international summit to end the crisis.
“It is time to agree in a substantive manner on an end to the conflict, and we are ready to take the necessary decisions during a new summit of the leaders of the four countries,” Zelenskiy said Tuesday in a statement following a meeting with European diplomats.
In Washington, Democratic lawmakers Wednesday proposed a comprehensive sanctions package to deter Russia from further aggression.
The Defending Ukraine Sovereignty Act of 2022 would impose crippling sanctions on the Russian banking sector and senior military and government officials if Putin escalates hostile action against Ukraine.
U.S. President Joe Biden has ruled out a military confrontation with Russia in the event it decides to attack Ukraine, but he says the U.S. and its allies would impose significant economic sanctions if Russia does invade.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.
Про головні події в Україні та світі в дайджесті новин від Радіо Свобода
Режим надзвичайного стану скасовується з 7:00 13 січня 2022 року
Санкції стосуються шести громадян Північної Кореї, одного росіянина й однієї російської компанії
As the United States and Russia met for talks in Geneva this week, the future security of Europe was at stake. But the European Union was not present – and bloc officials have voiced growing frustration, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.