What to do about Sochi?

While most people are horrified by Russia’s recent laws on “Gay Propaganda” and its inaction on the torture of LGBT Teenagersby thugs, the rest of the right thinking world is split on how to react.

Should we boycott Russian Vodka? Should we move the Olympics like Stephen Fry has suggested? But if we do this will it harden the Russian Attitude and make them the victims? Well in their media anyway.

But of course the International Olympic Committee has been here before. Beijing.

Those planning to protest should remember that the IOC took no heed of those protests despite China’s trampling on Human Rights, so why would the IOC treat Russia any differently?

Its a catch-22 for those who want to protest. The IOC have said it will enforce rule 50 of the IOC Charter on athletes and officials. Rule 50 states

‘No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.’

Tilda Swinton in Moscow

 

The Russians too have said they will enforce the law during Sochi 2014 meaning athletes, officials and spectators face 15 days in jail followed by deportation if suspected of Gay Propaganda.

How do you fight this? Go for the sponsors? Sign Petitions?

You can’t move it. No where else is geared up for this.

A boycott is unfeasible as it puts a break on an athletes career. These are only every 4 years.

There are no good options on this.

The only option is, as The National Post points out for Gay Athletes attending Sochi 2014,

Go, be out, be yourself. If you’re not out, be supportive. Be proud. Inspire the people watching. We don’t know if someone will offer an act of bravery on a podium, or elsewhere. But someone should have the chance, because that, more than anything, should be what the world will remember.

Between that and protests around the world like this one in Sweden outside the Russian Embassy,

Amsterdam’s “Welcome” to President Putin

and other such as Irish Youth Groups coming together to protest against this, then we may start to make the Russian realise they are on the wrong side of this.

We can only hope they find this out before Sochi gets underway.

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YFG to hold Human Rights Session at Fine Gael Ard Fheis

As part if the 76th Fine Gael Ard Fheis, Young Fine Gael will be hosting a session on Saturday afternoon on the topic of Human Rights. The session will discuss Human Rights at home and abroad. The Session will include discussion on how human rights should become central to our society and political system, the media treatment of human rights, children’s rights and the Children’s Referendum, and advocacy for people with disability.

Speaking about the Session, Young Fine Gael President, Patrick Molloy said:

“This is a great opportunity to bring YFG members together with key opinion makers campaigning for human rights in Ireland. The Session will enable our members better understand future changes in major issues like marriage and adoption rights for LGBT individuals in Ireland, children’s rights, and disability rights, and also how these issues develop in the political and media sphere. Our members will also have an opportunity to engage with speakers about these topics.”

“As Fine Gael work with Labour in government, Young Fine Gael are advocating that human rights are kept central to our policies and goals and this Ard Fheis Session is an opportunity for our members to have their say on human rights in Ireland and abroad.”

The speakers will include

  • Tanya Ward, Children’s Rights Alliance
  • Carl O’Brien, Irish Times
  • Simon Harris TD
  • Colm O’Gorman, Amnesty Ireland

It will be an interesting session and I for one am looking forward to it!

Facebook Event

YFG Press Release

Campaign For Children – Cork Meeting Wednesday 25th

The Campaign for Children will be holding a public meeting tomorrow, Wednesday 25th, at 6pm in the Geogrpahy Lecture Hall in UCC. It is part of a series of public meetings to inform people about the work of the campaign.

The Campaign is chaired by Former Supreme Court Justice Catherine McGuinness. Its board also contains some influential people, including Fergus Finlay of Barnardos and Olivia O’Leary.

The Campaign raises very important issues and more importantly has suggestions to how they should be solved.

This organisation will most likely play a leading role in any referendum campaign on Children’s Rights.

So head along and find out more about the campaign.

More info

Public Consultation on Universal Periodic Review

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I got this via email, and for those interested in the UN Human Right Council or Human Rights in Ireland should definitely attend these  meetings. I am going to try and attend the Cork meeting and will try and tweet from it.

The Minister for Justice and Equality, Alan Shatter T.D. and the Minister of State for Disability, Equality and Mental Health, Kathleen Lynch T.D. are inviting members of the public and organisations to take part in public consultation meetings to discuss Ireland’s human rights record as part of the United Nations Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process.

A series of public meetings will be held around the country as follows:

DUBLIN, Monday 16/05/2011, 7-10 pm.
St. Andrew’s Resource Centre, 114 Pearse St., Dublin 2

ATHLONE, Wednesday 18/05/2011, 7-10 pm.
Douglas Hyde theatre, Athlone Institute of Technology, Dublin Road, Athlone

KILKENNY, Friday 20/05/2011, 7-10 pm
The Parade Tower, Kilkenny Castle

LIMERICK, Monday 23/05/2011, 7-10 pm
Room 310, Mary Immaculate College, South Circular Road, Limerick

SLIGO, Wednesday 25/05/2011, 7-10 pm
Room A0006, Institute of Technology Sligo, Ash Lane, Sligo

CORK, Friday 27/05/2011, 7-10 pm
Boole 1, University College Cork, College Road, Cork

DUBLIN, Monday 30/05/2011, 7-10 pm
Axis Ballymun Theatre, Main Street, Ballymun, Dublin 9

An interdepartmental working group chaired by the Department of Justice and Equality is preparing Ireland’s National Report on our domestic human rights situation for the United Nations Human Rights Council UPR process. The National Report, which must be submitted to the UN by Monday, 4 July 2011, will be informed by consultation with and submissions from individuals and organisations, and the Department is keen to give the widest possible range of organisations and members of the public the opportunity to make submissions on issues of importance in the area of human rights in Ireland.

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is one of the major innovations of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council (established in 2006), whereby the domestic human rights records of all 192 UN Member States are reviewed every four years. 48 countries are reviewed each year, starting in 2008, with 16 reviews taking place in each of the thrice yearly UPR Working Group sessions. Ireland’s first review under the UPR process will take place on 6 October 2011.

For more information about the UPR process, guidance on how to prepare a submission and to make a submission, please visit our website, www.upr.ie

Hungarian Media Law Translated

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The National Media and Infocommunications Authority Hungary (Nmhh) have published the Act on Media Services and Mass Media on their website in PDF format.

It is nearly 200 pages long and is a tough read.

Article 187 is what sets out the fines which has a lot of people worried

(3) The Media Council and the Agency — with due heed to paragraph (7) — shall have the right to impose the following legal consequences:
a) it may exclude the infringer from the opportunity to participate in the tenders put out by the Fund for a definite period of time;
b) it may impose a fine on the infringer in line with the following limits:
ba) in case of infringement by a JBE media service provider and the media service provider under the regulations on the limitation of media market concentration, the fine shall be of an amount not exceeding HUF 200,000,000;
bb) in case of infringement by a media service provider falling beyond the scope of item (ba), the fine shall be of an amount not exceeding HUF 50,000,000;
bc) in case of a newspaper of nationwide distribution, the fine shall be of an amount not exceeding HUF 25,000,000;
bd) in case of a weekly periodical of nationwide distribution, the fine shall be of an amount not exceeding HUF 10,000,000;
be) in case of other newspaper or weekly newspaper or periodical, the fine shall be of an amount not exceeding HUF 5,000,000;
bf) in case of an online media product, the fine shall be of an amount not exceeding HUF 25,000,000;
bg) in case of a broadcaster, the fine shall be an amount not exceeding HUF 5,000,000;
bh) in case of an intermediary service provider, the fine shall be of an amount not exceeding HUF 3,000,000;

Do read the full text! Now the Commission have something to work on.

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Hungary Digging in its Heels

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It was has not been a great start to its Presidency, Hungary is now digging its heels in response to criticism of its controversial media law.

“It isn’t necessary to change a Hungarian law just because it is subject to criticism from abroad,” Zoltan Kovacs, state secretary for communication, told national radio.

“Before criticising, let’s wait and see how this law works. We are confident it will be up to the task,” he added.

Source

This and the fact that it hasn’t been fully translated into English are the reasons that the Hungarian Government have not responded to EU Commissioner Neelie Kroes letter from before Christmas.

This is despite criticism from home and abroad of the new law. France stated that the new law was “incompatible with the application of a certain idea of the freedom of the press, endorsed by all the European treaties.”

The largest Daily newspaper in Hungary Nepszabadsag, declared on its front page “The freedom of the press in Hungary comes to an end,” in the 27 languages of the EU.

This issue isn’t going away on the Hungarians, they may want to look at the law again or else find their Presidency being distracted by it.

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Belarus Shuts Down OSCE Office

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Radio Free Europe is reporting that the Government of Belarus has ordered the shut down of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe‘s (OSCE) office in Minsk.

This was because it had fulfilled its mandate according to Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Savinykh.

This is on top of the multiple arrests of activists and opponents of the Lukashenka administration.

The OSCE has stated that Belarus is still “a considerable way” from holding a democratic vote. The OSCE representative on freedom of the media, Dunja Mijatovic, also condemned detentions and assaults of journalists in Minsk following the election as “unacceptable.”

On Thursday Lukashenka issued a statement on the arrests saying “Don’t you demand [their release] from me. We are doing the way they do things in France and Germany”. Then he added, “If anyone pushes me and demands [the release], it will only make matters worse”. (As quoted by Interfax-Belarus & translated by Denis Baranov of Free Belarus. Original quotes in Russian: http://www.interfax.by/news/belarus/85687)

Worrying times for those opposed to the regime in Belarus.

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Hungary’s new censorship laws.

Trainride to Hokkaido 06 - Freedom of Speech
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On the 1st of January a new era will dawn on Hungary. It will take over the Presidency of European Council for the first time and a new law on media freedom will come into effect.

While the first thing is something for Hungarians to celebrate, the law on the other hand is not. It has been criticised by the OSCE Media freedom representative who wrote in a report that “Regulating print media can curb media freedom and free public debate, which are indispensable elements of democracies” and “Regulating online media is not only technologically impossible but it exerts a chilling, self-censoring effect on free expression.”

Freedom House set the law was “a major setback for press freedom in Hungary”.

Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn has said “The plans clearly violate the spirit and the letter of EU treaties” and “It raises the question whether such a country is worthy of leading the EU.”

A good reference of this is Article 11 of Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms of the EU which states

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.

2. The freedom and pluralism of the media shall be respected.

Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms also deals with this, which Hungary also party to

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.

2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

The law which was proposed by the Fidesz party who won the general election back in April, have used their power to appoint party supporters to the National Media and Communications Authority (NMHH).

This is a clear breach of media freedoms. The Hungarian Government will stifle free speech with this law, as to actually appeal one must pay the fines.

The fines are roughly €720,000 for TV and Radio Stations, €90,000 for newspapers and €36,000 for news websites. This could easily bankrupt any media that may be opposed to the government.

I am supporting bloggingportal.eu’s campaign to raise awareness of this law and lodge my opposition to this law.

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ABC v Ireland (European Court of Human Rights)

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Today the European Court of Human Rights (not an EU body!) handed down its judgement on the case of ABC v Ireland on the issue of provision of Abortion in Ireland.

As kind of expected the court declared A and B inadmissible as

the existing prohibition on abortion in Ireland struck a fair balance between the right of the first and second applicants to respect of their private lives and the rights invoked on behalf of the unborn.

They also stated that

prohibition in Ireland on abortion for health or well-being reasons was based on the profound moral values of the Irish people in respect of the right to life of the unborn

So the court did take this into account.

The difference in the case of C was that the life of the mother was under threat due to the cancer she was suffering from. As the Irish Constitution allows an abortion in this case, the court ruled

that neither the medical consultation nor litigation options, relied on by the Irish Government, constituted effective and accessible procedures which allowed the third applicant to establish her right to a lawful abortion in Ireland. Moreover, there was no explanation why the existing constitutional right had not been implemented to date.

This is an issue that has been dodged by successive governments since the eight amendment was passed. This will now force the Goverment to amend the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 which has had the “chilling” effect on any sort of abortion service in Ireland.

It is interesting as well to see the groups who intervened in this case.

  • the Lithuanian Government (one of the applicants being Lithuanian);
  • the European Centre for Law and Justice in association with Kathy Sinnott (Member of the European Parliament);
  • the Family Research Council (Washington D.C.)
  • Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (London); the
  • Pro-Life Campaign;
  • Doctors for Choice (Ireland)
  • British Pregnancy Advisory Service;
  • Center for Reproductive Rights
  • International Reproductive and Sexual Health Law Programme.

This case has been welcomed by Pro-Choice activist and condemned by Pro-Life activists, which is strange considering all the judgement is doing is telling us to enact our own constitution!

So will we finally get our abortion act?

Full Judgement and ECHR Press Release (PDF’s)

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The Elephant in the Room

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There is a very large elephant in the room in Irish politics. It is a very important issue and it cause fierce tensions and divides, but not only in Ireland.

I blogged a few years back that Ireland needs an Abortion Act and recent events are making that point more necessary!

The recent poll in the Irish Examiner showing that “60% of young people want abortion legalised here” shows that young people do care about this issue.

Todays report by Human Right’s Watch, A State of Isolation, which calls on the Government to decriminalise “all abortion for women living in Ireland” (Full list of recommendations)

Abortion is a polarising issue in Ireland. At the moment it is unresolved. Ireland has two choices. We can amend the Offences against the Person Act, 1861 to take account of the constitutional rights. Or we have a new referendum on Abortion and try and introduce the freedom to have an Abortion.

(The right to an abortion is something I am not sure of, so I refrain from using that terminology)

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