Tuesday, July 31, 2007

India, justice delayed…

Bombay’s trinubals surrounding the 1993 explosions that killed 257 persons in India's commercial capital took on a farcical, show-trial element today, as an apparently vindictive judge, PD Kode of the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act (TADA) court, sentenced Bollywood star Sanjay Dutt to six years of “rigorous imprisonment” for possessing a 9 mm pistol and an AK-56 rifle given to him by members of Bombay’s underworld at the height of the riots that preceded the 1993 terror attack.

One might be able to take such an unduly harsh sentence seriously (Dutt already served 16 months in jail in connection with the charges) had any attempt been made to bring the politically powerful who orchestrated large parts of the 1992/93 bloodshed to account.

It is hard to forget, of course, that, following the destruction of Babri Mosque in northeastern India by Hindu extremists in December 1992, Mumbai was engulfed in ghastly rioting that left over 2,000 dead , many of them Muslims targeted by Hindu mobs that a government commission later found were affiliated with the stridently sectarian Shiv Sena political party.

The Shiv Sena (or Army of Shiva, referring to Shivaji) was formed by Bal Thackeray in 1966, promoting themselves as Bhumiputra or "sons of the soil," while propagating that native Maharashtrians (those born in Maharashtra state and speaking the Marathi language) deserved greater rights in their eponymous state (of which Bombay is a part) than "foreigners," which in this case meant basically Muslims (the Shiv Sena also promoted the rather exceptionalist Hindutva philosophy) and "southerners" (those from south India).

The Srikrishna Commission Report on the violence, released in 1998, stated unequivocally that “from January 8, 1993 at least there is no doubt that the Shiv Sena and Shiv Sainiks took the lead in organizing attacks on Muslims and their properties under the guidance of several leaders,’ singling out Thackeray for special condemnation.

To date neither Thackeray , nor any of his deputies, has ever had to answer for the terrible crimes they oversaw against their fellow citizens of India. Much as a shameless demagogue such as Narendra Modi - chief minister of Gujarat state who (at best) stood by in 2002 as 2,000 (most Muslim) citizens were slaughtered and now stands accused of involvement in extra-judicial police killings - has never had to appear and authoritatively answer the charges against him.

Pompous judges like PD Kode, evidently drunk with power, can satisfy themselves with sentencing private citizens to harsh stretches of prison time, I suppose. But until they muster up the courage to start hauling the political leaders who have contributed to so much division and destruction in India in recent years into the dock, their statements about the rule of law in India are as transient, transparent and feeble as the breeze blowing through the banyan trees on a hot Bombay day.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Sarkozy charges ahead, sets stage for power struggle within France’s Socialists

My new article on the political landscape here in France, which finds itself worryingly without an electoral or politically-effective opposition, was published by the Inter-Press Service today and can be read below.


FRANCE: Sarkozy Charges Ahead

Analysis by Michael Deibert

Inter Press Service

PARIS, Jul 30 (IPS) - Since his inauguration as France's president in May, Nicolas Sarkozy has appeared as a whirlwind of activity following the often-lethargic decade-plus rule of his predecessor, Jacques Chirac.

The initiatives of the Sarkozy government thus far have been many, often touching on controversial topics.

There is the creation of a much-criticised Ministry of National Identity to address France's immigration concerns. There was Sarkozy on a recent trip to Senegal, calling for an end to Franco-African diplomacy based on personal relations between leaders (a hallmark of the presidencies of Chirac and François Mitterrand) and more on "partnership between nations equal in their rights and responsibilities."

Sarkozy successfully lobbied a recent European Union meeting in Brussels for the removal of the words "free and undistorted competition" from a list of the body's core objectives for coming years and announced an 11 billion euro (15 billion dollars) stimulus package for France's lukewarm economy that all but blew out of the water any chance of balancing France's budget.

Read the full article here.

Shukran, Team Iraq

Yesterday, in Jakarta, Indonesia, a football squad comprised of Sunnis, Shias, Kurds and Turkomans gave a great gift to their fellow Iraqis when they defeated the favored Saudi Arabia team 1-0 to win the final match of the 2007 Asian Cup.

Perhaps the most eloquent commentary of the joy that reportedly followed in Iraq I read appeared in today's Guardian, where a 25-year-old computer programmer named Taha Mahmoud said the following:

"In 90 minutes, 11 men on a soccer pitch thousands of miles away have made millions of Iraqis happy while 250 MPs, our government, the mullahs, imams and warlords can't provide us with a single smile. I hope this is a turning point for our country."

Insha'allah, let it be so.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Russian Roulette

My review of journalist Anna Politkovskaya's new book A Russian Diary: A Journalist's Final Account of Life, Corruption, and Death in Putin's Russia, is the lead book review in today's Miami Herald. As Herald links tend to become defunct after a few week's time, I am reposting the review in its entirety here. To read the original review, please click on the link below. MD

Posted on Sun, Jul. 29, 2007





''The more I think about it, the more I would be betraying these people if I walked away,'' the Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya told an interviewer in 2002. ``The only thing to do is to take this to the bitter end, so that no one can say that when things became difficult, I ran away.''

Politkovskaya, who served as a special correspondent for Novaya Gazeta newspaper, did not run away, and whomever ordered the assassins' bullets that cut her down outside of her Moscow flat in October 2006 failed to still the echoes of that voice, a fact her newly published book powerfully brings home.

An uncommonly eloquent and impassioned voice for what she saw as the destruction of Russia's nascent democracy under the rule of President Vladimir Putin, Politkovskaya made her name reporting from the ground in the most brutal days of Russia's war in Chechnya, painting vivid and often shocking portraits of the agony inflicted on civilians there by Russian forces, Chechen warlords and Islamist rebels alike, and how actors on many sides of the conflict cynically profited from the destruction. Her earlier book A Small Corner of Hell remains a definitive portrait of the conflict.

Later, as the bloodshed spilled to neighboring Caucasus regions such as Ingushetia, North Ossetia and Moscow itself, Politkovskaya reported that, too, and set the stage for A Russian Diary 's account of the ways in which Chechnya was the template for the deformed authoritarian state that, in Politkovskaya's view, has taken present-day Russia by the throat and has no intention of letting go.

Here at first-hand we see the violence and fraud that surrounded Russia's 2003 parliamentary elections and 2004 presidential elections: Candidates opposing Putin's United Russia party receive body parts in plastic bags; in Chechnya, the amount of votes cast is 10 percent more than there are registered voters; a steady, casual and cynical co-opting of other journalists and human rights activists by the state marches forward with disturbing regularity. It is a state that Politkovskaya reveals to be brutal and incompetent. It is hard to read of the callous treatment of the relatives of victims of the 2002 Dubrovka theater siege (where Chechen militants seized a Moscow theater, and security services responded by pumping in an unknown chemical agent that killed three times as many hostages as it did attackers), or that of the grieving parents of the Beslan school siege two years later (an even-worse terrorist outrage and government failure which killed more than 300, mostly children) and not share Politkovskaya's righteous anger.

Throughout the book we see the face of the new Russia that Politkovskaya believes is being constructed, and it is not a pretty picture. We see it in Ramzan Kadyrov, the Moscow-backed current president of Chechnya, portrayed as a ranting, uneducated thug in a long interview that Politkovskaya conducted in August 2004. Kadyrov has been accused of directing the abduction, torture and murder of hundreds, perhaps thousands of people. We see the face of the new Russia in the bat-wielding pro-government shock troops of the Nashi (''Ours'') movement, whose similarity to another political youth wing 70 years earlier in another European country appears to be more than simply alliterative.

And yet there are also stories of immense courage and resilience in the midst of what appears to be overwhelming, unyielding state machinery and popular apathy (at one point Politkovskaya witheringly compares modern Russian society to ``a collection of windowless, isolated concrete cells'').

Opposition politician Irina Hakamada stands against Putin in the 2004 ballot and declares that ''I am going into this election as if to the scaffold. . . . There are normal people in Russia who know what they [the Putin government] are up to.'' Observe the unexpected courage and grace of the oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, condemned to prison when the Russian state set its sights on Yukos, the petroleum company he controlled. Also flitting like a ghost through the diary entries is Alexander Litvinenko, the former lieutenant-colonel in the Federal Security Service (a successor to the KGB) who went into exile in London and became one of the most bitter and vocal critics of the Putin government. Following Politkovskaya's murder, Litvinenko spoke out strongly, accusing Putin of involvement. A month later he followed her to the grave, poisoned after meeting with another former Russian spy.

Though the overall tone is not one of defeat -- Politkovskaya introduces us to many ex-servicemen, pensioners and victims of terrorism fighting for their rights -- there is a palpable gloom that pervades the book, a sense that, before getting any better, things will get much, much worse and that, when any change comes, it is likely to be bloody.

In an entry from October 29 2004, almost exactly two years before her own murder, Politkovskaya penned a bitterly eloquent epitaph for what she saw as having become of modern Russia. ``Any of us might now go to buy bread and never return. . . . The Russian people remained silent, hoping it would be the neighbors they would come to get.''

Michael Deibert is the author of Notes from the Last Testament: The Struggle for Haiti.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Jean-Rabel: 20 years on

There is an interesting and moving commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the massacre of Haitian peasants in the northwestern town of Jean-Rabel posted on the AlterPress website. The declaration, in Kryeol comes from the Tèt Kole Ti Peyizan organization and calls for justice on behalf of the over 100 peasants slain in the attack, and continued solidarity between Haiti's national and international progressive movements. Read it in full here.

An anti-journalistic talking shop for the privileged class

Ever since I was libeled in its pages by a wealthy, college-dwelling professional dissembler (York University Professor Justin Podur) and a convicted criminal and perjurer (Patrick Elie), and then denied the right of response, I have always thought that one had about as much chance reasoning with the crowd that populates the internet publication ZNet as one did of reasoning with a barnyard animal, though no doubt the barnyard animal would be less pernicious by nature. This is, after all, a website that has made a gospel out of verbally lauding deniers of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre (refusing to print critiques in response and ignoring evidence and tesimonials to the contrary), fawning over Caribbean despots and killers (again, ignoring evidence upon evidence) and a whole host of other unsavory types, pretty much refining the template for armchair radicalism in the service of attacking genuinely progressive, democratic movements the world over. A recent article by Shirley Pate would seem a case in point.

The article, which consists of an attack on director Asger Leth’s film Ghosts of Cité Soleil , is interesting chiefly because it seems fairly obvious that author Pate has not seen the film in question, though that doesn’t stop her from declaring that the its mission is to show that “supporters of (former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand) Aristide are violence-prone sub-humans who, because of their overwhelming majority and continued demand for the return of Aristide, must be contained and then eliminated.”

I have not seen Ghosts of Cité Soleil , and so can’t pass any judgment on it, though I did know its two main protagonists, James “Billy” Petit-Frere and Winston “Tupac” Jean-Bart, with the former being a close personal friend of mine of long-standing before his murder in 2005. Having watched the Aristide government arm and organize street gangs between 2001 and 2004, I can certainly say that some of the political militants portrayed in the film were capable of real violence, though, as always, the story is a bit more complex than Pate and ZNet would have readers believe. Over the three years of Aristide’s second term in office, gunmen in Haiti’s slums were alternately courted and killed by Haitian political elements, chiefly thought not exclusively by political and police officials of Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas political party, the dance between the two becoming one of extreme mutual circumspection over time. There were some bright, highly motivated people among the political militants who could have been of great use to any government that wanted to change Haitian society into a more equitable and just place, but, unfortunately, as so many actors in Haiti that had come before them, Aristide and the Fanmi Lavalas party were simply not interested in that.

Similarly, as René Préval was elected as Haiti's president in February 2006 with 51.5 percent of the vote at the head of the Lespwa coalition of political parties, and March Bazin, the official candidate of Fanmi Lavalas, received 0.68% of the vote in that 35-candidate race, one wonders on what basis Pate describes Fanmi Lavalas partisans as an “overwhelming majority.” Undermining Préval seems to be the task at hand for the handful of activists in North America that appear to long for a return to the days of Aristide in Haiti.

The last article of Pate’s that crossed my radar was also published on ZNet, an ugly attack on the progressive journalist Jane Regan who, along with the Haitian photographer Daniel Morel, has done as much as anyone ever has to help document the Haitian people’s struggle for a more just and decent society, free from predatory politicians, foreign manipulation and economic desperation.

In her attack on Regan, Pate, referring to the inferno of bloodshed that was consuming Haiti at the time, wrote that “we must acknowledge that resistance may involve violence.” Perhaps she was alluding to the kidnapping, torture and murder of Haitian journalist and poet Jacques Roche, the beheading of political activist Weber Adrien or the murder of at least one Police Nationale d'Haïti (PNH) officer every five days between September 2004 and September 2005. It’s hard to tell. The gangs themselves, and the police who would summarily execute scores, probably hundreds, of young men they suspected of being gang-affiliated, did a good job of making life in Haiti’s capital a living hell for it’s residents for many months. Fortunately, with Préval, Haiti seems to be finally pulling itself out of the morass.

At any rate, ZNet, whose founder Michael Albert more-or-less epitomizes the image of what I have heard termed the full-belly revolutionary (as applied to the Palestinian group Fatah, in one case), will no doubt continue to prevaricate, misinform and mislead its readers from the safety and comfort of first-world countries such as the United States, Canada and England, then shutting down debate when its writers are caught out, as has happened in the past.

One can only hope that on issues such as Haiti, the genuinely concerned public will have the insight to glean their news from more reliable sources, such as Haiti’s AlterPresse news service. I recently wrote of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp that I found it to be a shrill, anti-journalistic, cheerleading machine, and I must say I find the same to be very much the case with ZNet, though from the opposite end of the ideological spectrum. With sources such as AlterPresse, where Haitians are finally allowed to be able to speak in their own voices, Haiti’s story will hopefully no longer be written solely by affluent foreigners attempting to live out fantasies of radicalism (safely insulated from any danger) but rather from those who live Haiti’s story every day.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

For Jazz Musicians, a Paris Tradition Continues

FRANCE: For Jazz Musicians, a Paris Tradition Continues

By Michael Deibert

Inter Press Service

PARIS, Jul 25, 2007 (IPS) - On a quiet side street in the Paris suburb of Louise Michel, jazz musician Bobby Few from the United States sits at his 120-year-old Gabriel Gaveau piano and reminisces about what he has seen come to pass in his nearly 40 years in France.

"After struggling in New York City for so many years, we wanted to find a new territory," Few says when visited at his home on a drizzly, unseasonably cool July day, speaking of his jazz group's decision to move to Paris in 1969. "We landed as total strangers, not knowing anybody, not knowing the language, not knowing where to go. But the music seemed to be everywhere."

Thus Few, who had moved to New York from his native Cleveland, Ohio in the early 1960s on the advice of the legendary jazz saxophonist Albert Ayler, headed to Paris in search of artistic renewal, following an established pattern of African-American musicians who have crossed the Atlantic in search of something they couldn't find in their native United States.

Read the full article here.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Hope, Concern Greet China's Growing Prominence in Africa

Hope, Concern Greet China's Growing Prominence in Africa

By Michael Deibert

Inter Press Service

PARIS, Jul 23, 2007 (IPS) - While China's growing trade and investment flows to Africa have sparked a sometimes contentious debate with the United States and Europe over who has the continent's best interests at heart, a closer look at the dynamic developing reveals a political landscape where the rhetoric is rarely in line with the reality, observers say.

Read the full article here.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

A Russian Diary

I am currently reading Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya’s A Russian Diary: A Journalist's Final Account of Life, Corruption, and Death in Putin's Russia. The book is Politkovskaya’s final offering, because she was murdered at her Moscow apartment in October of last year.

Politkovskaya was a great, courageous journalist and a writer of tremendous emotional impact and analytical acuity. An earlier Politkovskaya book, A Small Corner of Hell, was one of the definitive portraits of the agony inflicted on the Chechens, and how actors on both sides of the conflict cynically profited from it. When she was killed in 2006, Politkovskaya had been working on an article regarding the use of torture in the regime of Chechnya’s pro-Moscow premier Ramzan A. Kadyrov, which, she told The New York Times in April, would likely include evidence of torture by Kadyrov’s police and paramilitaries, and perhaps even testimony from at least one witness who had been tortured by Mr. Kadyrov himself.

One of the most striking things about A Russian Diary thus far, is the appearance in it (it covers the years 2003 until 2006) of so many of those now-departed. There is Nikolai Girenko, the founder of the Group for the Rights of Ethnic Minorities (GPEM) and a respected professor of ethnology slain by extreme nationalists in St. Petersburg in June 2004. There is Paul Klebnikov, the Moscow editor of Forbes magazine, gunned down outside of his office barely a month later. And there is Alexander Litvinenko,the former lieutenant-colonel in the Federal Security Service (FSB) of the Russian Federation who went into exile in London and became one of the most bitter and vocal critics of the government of Russian president Vladimir Putin. Following Politkovskaya’s murder, Litvinenko spoke out strongly, accusing Putin of involvement in the killing. A month later he followed her to the grave, poisoned after meeting with another former Russian spy.

I came across a moving and eloquent interview conducted with Litvinenko a few years before his death, which speaks, I believe, not only of the state of modern Russia under Putin, but also of the bravery and courage of people like Politkovskaya and Litvinenko, fragile individuals standing up against awesome political and financial power, and organized campaigns against their integrity and reputations by those in a position to benefit from chaos and banditry.

You did the best your could, Anna Politkovskaya and Alexander Litvinenko. That’s all your countrymen or the rest of us could have ever asked for.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

A few notes on journalism

In 1959, a 27 year-old Australian Aborigine named Max Stuart was convicted of raping and murdering Mary Hattam, a nine-year-old girl, near the South Australian town of Ceduna. A confession - purportedly Stuart’s - was presented to the court in sophisticated diction that struck a prison chaplain on hand as quite surprising given the fact that Stuart could barley speak or write English, and was conversant only in his native Arrernte language. Stuart was sentenced to death.

Then, something happened. An Adelaide daily called The News campaigned vigorously against Stuart’s sentence, publishing investigative articles, editorials and even creating posters to publicize their take on the case. Though Stuart was eventually spared death (he was freed in 1974 but never pardoned), the campaign of The News had attracted such ire in official quarters - particularly on the part of Premier of South Australia Thomas Playford - that the paper, its editor and it publisher were all charged with three counts of “sedition” each by Australian authorities.

The editor of The News was named Rohan Rivett. The publisher’s name was Rupert Murdoch.

Called on the carpet by Playford, Murdoch made a fateful decision: he fired his longtime friend Rivett with a one-paragraph letter and agreed to pay the costs of the royal commission that had examined the case at the newspaper’s urging.

I mention this because, as Rupert Murdoch makes his 11th hour lunge to buy the venerable Wall Street Journal and bring even more of America’s media under his control (he already runs The New York Post and the Fox News Channel), it is useful to remember that one can find an initial grain of humanity even in the most seemingly co-opted and distasteful individuals, and that we reach a state of moral compromise not overnight, but through a hundred little moments of backing down, hedging and simply not doing the right thing. I have seen this most notably in Haiti, where competent, essentially decent foreign journalists sometimes remain mute while good people are attacked for fear that stepping out of line might jeopardize the narrow trajectory of their own careers. From watching this I know that, once that compromise is made, the quality of a journalist’s work ultimately suffers. For my part, though I may remain monetarily poor, it is of little note, no matter how occasionally difficult, compared to being able to wake up and look confidently in the mirror knowing that one has done the right thing, and spoken truth to power and dogma, no matter what the cost. Too many people I have seen around the world have paid with their lives for doing just that, so how can journalists abdicate that responsibility? In my view, they can’t.

As Murdoch tenders his $5 billion takeover bid for Dow Jones & Co. (the Wall Street Journal’s parent entity), the Bancroft family, which controls a majority interest in Dow Jones, remains bitterly divided on the deal, fearing that a newspaper that carried the fine coverage of reporters such as Jose de Cordoba and Jonathan Weil will become just another element of what is regarded by many (including myself) as Murdoch’s shrill, anti-journalistic, right-wing cheerleading machine. Instead of taking these developments lying down, many of the Journal’s reporters and editors are actively lobbying against the idea in the perhaps vain hope that they can save one of the bastions of great reporting (no matter how I may differ with its editorial page) in a journalism landscape increasingly dominated by a focus on often facile local coverage, half-baked “activist” rantings and an ever-diminishing reserve of foreign reporting at a time when the United States is desperately in need of more, not less, of it.

As we watch this drama unfold, as journalists, it is useful to remember that faithful decision to fire Rohan Rivett that Rupert Murdoch took all those years ago in the wake of a largely forgotten murder trial in Australia. There are two roads we can go down. That of equivocating (a far different thing than soberly weighing both sides of an issue) and that of taking our profession as seriously as the responsibility which has been entrusted to us, to give voice to suffering and a platform to those who have been marginalized from the wider world.

The great Haitian journalist Jean Dominique, shortly before his murder in Haiti in 2000, said into the microphone of his station, Radio Haiti-Inter, that “I have no other weapon than my journalist’s pen! And my microphone and my unquenchable faith as a militant for true change…This is the truth that it is right to speak of this morning, the truth of a free man.”

Let us, as journalists write, and live, as free men and women. The stakes are simply too high for us to be intimidated by monetary or other concerns and do otherwise.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Deibert on YouTube

I have opened up a YouTube account which I hope to update semi-regularly with videos from my travels. For the initial offering, please go see it here.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Following Oil Boom, Biofuel Eyed In Africa

TRADE: Following Oil Boom, Biofuel Eyed In Africa

By Michael Deibert

Inter Press Service

PARIS, Jul 13 (IPS) - While oil profits have flooded into countries such as Angola and Nigeria in recent decades, some African observers see new potential for the continent in the form of increasingly in-demand biofuels.

Biofuels, loosely defined as liquid or gas fuels derived from biomass, produce significantly less ozone-damaging carbon emissions than fossil fuels such as coal and petroleum. A large swath of southern Africa, including Angola, Mozambique and South Africa, is proving fertile ground for those seeking an alternative to fossil fuels.

It is a development that has not escaped the notice of Europe.

Read more here.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Bush administration’s bad medicine

As the Bush administration, isolated but not, sadly, without weapons, draws to its shameful end, recent testimony by former Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona before a Congressional panel this week helped bring home just how rigid the regime’s quackery has been when it comes to matters of medical science over the last several years.

Among the points that Dr. Carmona made with relation to how he was told to do his job during his 2002 to 2006 tenure (that is, as the leading spokesperson on matters of public health for the administration) are the following:

  • Dr. Carmona was ordered to mention President Bush three times on every page of every speech he delivered.
  • On the topic of sex education, Dr. Carmona’s suggestion that the use of contraceptives be included was met with a refrain that the Bush government wanted to promote “abstinence only.”
  • Global warming was dismissed as a “liberal cause.”
  • Dr. Carmona was advised not to testify at a U.S. government racketeering trial of the tobacco industry by an administration that was simultaneously telling the government lawyer in the case that he, Dr. Carmona, was not competent to testify.

Quite a way to treat a double Purple Heart United States Army Special Forces veteran, no?

It’s good to know, as one of the 48 million Americans without health insurance, that the Bush administration had its priorities straight.

Monday, July 09, 2007

A Haitian world champion and le jogging

Though I am no fan of boxing, I feel that some kudos are in order for Joachim Alcine who defeated Travis Simms for the World Boxing Association Super-Welterweight championship over the weekend. Alcine is the first Haitian-born boxer ever to win a world title.

On an unrelated note, there was a highly amusing article in the Washington Post this weekend about the cultural significance of the proclivity for jogging of France’s new president Nicolas Sarkozy, and whether it is, in the Post’s words, some sort of stealth “un-French, right-wing conspiracy.” Though I used to jog fairly regularly in New York, I generally opt for the treadmill and the gym here in Paris. But I must say I do notice that ,of the joggers I do see, many of them are inevitably conversing with one another (if running in a pair) in a language other than French.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

A nod to the resourceful women of India

Two very different women drew notice for two very different types of protests in India this week

In the southern Indian state of Karnataka (of which Bangalore is a part), J. N. Jayashree, wife of a state bureaucrat named M. N. Vijayakumar who has spoken out vigorously against corruption in the government there, started a blog as a way to spread the word about the pilferage currently plaguing Karnataka . Raising her husband’s international profile in the face of the recent murders of whistleblowers such as Satyendra Dubey and Shanmughan Manjunath was another motivation.

It is, I think, a quite brilliant move and one the should be copied in other places with high-levels of corruption such as Haiti and Guatemala, where honest civil servants and officials often speak out against or take action against corrupt colleagues, officials and business interests at great peril to their own lives. The borderless internet serves as an ideal vehicle to tell the world about what is going on in countries such as these, from the ground level to an international audience, such as Ms. Jayashree is doing, and it would seem to be able to help, flooding the deeds of dishonest with day. Let’s hope that her example catches on.

Many hundreds of miles to the north, in the city of Rajkot in Gujarat state, a young woman named Pooja Chauhan , fed up with harassment and abuse by her husband and in-laws and exasperated with police indifference to her travails, stripped down to her underwear and marched through the conservative city in protest.

Evidently sufficiently shamed, Rajkot police then arrested Pooja Chauhan’s husband, Pratapsinh Chauhan, as well as her in-laws for alleged harassment and physical abuse. Subsequently the subject of much ugly speculation and innuendo, Pooja Chauhan told reporters this week simply that "I am not mad. Just because I threw away my clothes, no one can call me mad. I know what I am doing and for what reason, All I want is justice.”

I hope that she gets it, and that J. N. Jayashree and Pooja Chauhan succeed in forcing India’s largely male political class into taking a more aggressive approach to investigating and punishing claims of both corruption and domestic abuse. Their steps are very courageous in a time and place where it is physically dangerous for them to be taken at all.

Good luck, ladies.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

The Struggle for Kashmir (Continued)

My article The Struggle for Kashmir (Continued), based on my visit to the conflict zone in February of this year, has just been published in the Spring 2007 edition of the World Policy Journal.

Featuring interviews with such pivotal figures in Kashmir’s recent political history as People's Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti, Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKFL) chairman Yasin Malik, Indian historian and author Ramachandra Guha and Parmina Ahanger, head of the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons, the article takes a long and uncompromising look at the situation on the ground in Kashmir today and the role that India and Pakistan have played in fostering it.

It also looks in depth at the effects on human rights and individual liberties in the region as a result of Section 45 of India’s criminal procedure code - which protects any member of the armed forces from arrest for “anything done or purported to be done by him in the discharge of his official duties except after obtaining the consent of the Central government” - and Section 197(2) of the same code, which makes it mandatory for prosecutors to obtain permission from the federal government to initiate criminal proceedings against any public servant, including armed forces personnel.

The article is also, I hope, a tribute to the resilience, hospitality and beauty of the thousands of ordinary Kashmiris, as beautiful even as their spectacular homeland, who, as one Kashmiri I met told me, “are very moderate people not the Taliban projected by media.”

Quite so.

For those interested, here also is a link to an interview I did regarding the situation in Kashmir with talk-show host Leonard Lopate on WNYC in New York this past May.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

A quick word of congratulations to Thony Bélizaire

The Haitian news source AlterPresse has printed the good news that veteran Haitian photographer Thony Bélizaire, of Agence France Presse, has been awarded first prize in a photo contest sponsored by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) for his work on the topic “Life in Cities.”

I had the good fortune to work with Thony quite a bit in Haiti over the years, covering political unrest, natural disasters and exuberant carnavals,and always knew him to be the consummate professional, dedicated to both his job and his country. Working with Thony and the other local Haitians journalists, who risked their lives in exchange for negligible salaries because of their dedication to their craft, remains some of my best memories of the country over the years.

Félicitations, Thony, on an award well-deserved.