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By: Kim Ives - Haiti Liberte
Thousands of demonstrators marched through Haiti's capital Port-au-Prince on July 15 to mark the 56th birthday of former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The demonstration, which was called by and adhered to by two rival factions of the Lavalas Family party (FL), was considered a great display of unity by its organizers.
At 9 a.m. the crowds gathered at the gate in front of Aristide's still gutted home in Tabarre. It was decorated with flowers and large photographs of the party's leader, who remains in exile in South Africa over five years after the Feb. 29, 2004 coup d'état against him.
The multitude then moved, like a great river, towards the capital.
Lavalas leaders said that the demonstration was a birthday present for Aristide. "Long live the return of President Aristide!" read some of the posters in the march. " Down with the MINUSTAH [UN Mission to Stabilize Haiti, the military occupation force]! Release of all political prisoners! Reinstatement of all fired State employees! Down with the neo-liberal plan!"
Demonstrators also bitterly denounced President René Préval for betraying their expectations that he would help return Aristide to Haiti and fight neoliberal austerity and privatization. Tens of thousands of Lavalas partisans voted for Préval in 2006, helping him win the presidency.
"Our political organization will defeat all those who are working for its demise," declared Dr. Maryse Narcisse, one of the members of the FL's Executive Committee at the close of the demonstration at the Place of the Constitution on the Champ de Mars, the capital's central square.
The Hong Kong government's attempt to shut down pirate radio broadcaster Citizen's Radio was scuttled in a recent decision of the Hong Kong High Court. In the decision, the Court stated that it did not see how the station's broadcasting could jeopardize public safety.
In a complicated ongoing legal battle, the Hong Kong government had sought to extend an injunction preventing the station from going to air. Citizen's Radio argued that denial of their application for a license violated their freedom of expression.
The unlicensed broadcasts were started in 2005 by a group of pro-democracy activists after their application for a license was denied by the Broadcasting Authority. The station airs phone-ins and discussions about current events and politics, including discussions about Hong Kong's transition to full democracy. In 2006, the station was raided by state agents, members were arrested and equipment confiscated.
After resuming broadcasts, the station got under official skin once again in May 2007 after legendary democracy activist, Szeto Wah, was interviewed about the Tiananmen Square Massacre. After the interview, Wah was charged with "knowingly becoming involved in the use of unlicensed communications equipment in order to transmit radio signals."
Citizen's Radio broadcasts on 102.8 FM from a tiny 150 square foot studio in a warehouse district in Mongok. They also distribute programming from their website.
Burma (aka Myanmar) has been on the front page of the Globe and Mail twice this week, and has been featured by many other publications and media outlets, as monks and pro-democracy protesters are mercilessly killed on the orders of the military junta that rules the country.
This has spawned a whole outpouring of solidarity and concern in various forms, as should be expected.
But the media coverage has been truly bizarre, and it seriously compromises the aims of that solidarity. The massive coverage given to the Burmese crackdown raises two very serious questions, the premises of which are somewhat contradictory:
1. Where was the the media outrage when this was happening in Haiti?
Independent journalist and occasional Dominion contributor Darren Ell's The Damage Done: Canada and the Coup in Haiti is up on the CitizenShift web site. The documentary (and accompanying interviews, podcasts and weblog entries) looks at Canada's role in the coup against democracy in Haiti and the ensuing human rights catastrophe.
I wrote an opinion piece for the most recent issue of This Magazine about the historical background of Canada's foreign aid, and what that means for current efforts to "reform" and increase foreign aid. It's available online, though for some reason it's missing include apostrophes and quotation marks.
Liberal Leader Stephane Dion celebrates the anniversary of the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians (the UN says 711,000) from their homes, cities and villages that marked the founding of the state of Israel. And he dances the Hora, which would be more amusing in a different context.
Mario Joseph, the leading human rights lawyer in Haiti, granted me a long interview yesterday in Port-au-Prince. We discussed many things (published soon), but when I asked him about what activists should be doing in Canada and the US, he said: "Keep your eyes wide open, watch your governments closely, be sophisticated in your research." He expressed deep gratitude as well to all those who have been working for democracy in Haiti.
Democracy Now did what media are supposed to do when contentious topics are in play, and hosted a debate about the granting of "rule by decree" powers by Venezuela's legislative assembly to President Hugo Chavez.
The Globe notes in passing that Jean-Pierre Kingsley, Canada's old Chief Electoral Officer, is off to join the International Federation for Electoral Systems (IFES).
Dominion contributor Anthony Fenton has done a fair bit of work exposing IFES and its role in the overthrow of Haitian democracy. A little background:
IFES successfully co-opted human rights groups, lawyers, and journalists, and "set the groundwork" for the creation of the Group of 184 business-led political opposition to Aristide.
For those keeping track of the millions in funding for "pro-western" journalists and political activists flowing from the US State Department, CIDA, and others, this article is worth reading. It seems that in the case of Iran, US funding has resulted in fewer freedoms, because the regime of the day feels threatened by the use of media for US foreign policy ends.
Many observers and activists say the crackdown on intellectuals and government critics has worsened since the U.S. State Department declared last February that it was creating a 75-million-dollar fund to "reach out to the people of Iran".
The press has repeated, ad nauseum, that the Serbian Radical Party, which won a plurality of seats in yesterday's election, is "ultra-nationalist", and in a few cases "far right". Unfortunately, there's almost no information about their positions or policies, other than they're against European integration and the extradition of General Ratko Mladic to the Hague.
On the second point, it's hard to argue with them. If one wishes to enforce international law, the way to do it is not to set up a US-funded kangaroo court that refuses outright to try war criminals on both sides. That's not justice, that's a farce. Enforcing international law is a great idea; enforcing it selectively just means it's not law and it's not international. And it's hard to get excited about non-international non-law.
Credit to the BBC for not only not using (at least in that article) the term "ultranationalist" to deride the Serbian Radical Party, which appears to be on its way to winning the elections (but probably not the government) in Serbia today, as many outlets undoubtedly will. The BBC gets extra points for alluding to the small fact that NATO dropped 20,000 tonnes of bombs on the country might have an effect on whether the majority of Serbs are willing to sacrifice their well-being to join the EU.
The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.