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Posts Tagged ‘prision’

50 facts that should change the world

Thursday, February 5th, 2009

By Jessica Williams

learningAt the risk of sounding sensationalist…did you know that a third of the world is at war, 30 million people in Africa are HIV positive and more than 150 countries use torture.

The facts and information provided in this book is often missed, glossed over or hidden by government and the media. So to continue: cars kill 2 people every minute, landmines kill or maim a person every hour…

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Letter to the President - Review

Tuesday, August 29th, 2006

A hiphop perspective

By Lena Stahlschmidt


This film takes a look into the world of politics through a hip-hop lens. It follows the American hip-hop movement from the 80’s to present. Through the voices of the hip-hop community issues such as the war on drugs, Regan presidency, crack epidemic, racial profiling, patriot act, censorship, police brutality, poverty, the industrial prison complex and many other political issues were discussed in relation to their impact on hip-hop.

The underlying inter-connecting issue throughout the film is racism and stereotypes. As it follows American politics it looks at the way hip-hop has been used for those marginalized and oppressed by the racist politic system to have their voices and stories heard and make a difference. It also looks into the current control that corporations and companies have over hip-hop music and how that has contributed to (mainstream) hip-hop loosing its political voice. It explores how companies have used hip-hop culture, which originated as a resistance to inequalities, to advertise as a way to make money that in turn maintains inequalities.

The film presented many issues that I have previously read, studied and heard about however, looking at it through a hip-hop perspective gave me new insight and a broader perspective on many of the issues.

War on liberties

Thursday, March 23rd, 2006

Eva Lawrence, Just Focus Coordinator

hands behind barsThe world, since September 11 is a different place. The media permanently talks about the latest terrorist threat’ and we have a whole new vocabulary: war on terrorism’ and WMD. There is a lot of fear, and in this state of fear we are quietly allowing our freedoms to slip away.

We are being scared with potential terrorist threats and this is being used as justification to strip us of some of our most precious and hard won rights including our freedom of expression, movement and association. Historically tyrants have always stamped out free speech before anything else. These are part of our human rights that are sanctioned in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and our so integral to our way of life we often take them for granted.

However changes to laws worldwide are threatening our rights. The changes have tended to be gradual and quiet, presumably so we do not notice or become quickly alarmed. They are happening now.

Liberties under threat overseas
In December 2005 a 25 year old woman in the UK was convicted for reading out the names of the 97 British soldiers killed in Iraq, under the new Serious Organised Crime and Police Act. In another case in the UK last September, An 80 year old WWII veteran was arrested, under the Terrorism Act, for wearing a T-shirt that said that Bush and Blair should be tried for war crimes (Pilger). Both these examples impinge on our freedom of opinion and expression.

The US Patriot Act has allowed for the arrest and imprisonment of suspected terrorists’. They have been denied access to US legal process; most still held without charge or trial in Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere. A recent United Nations report has also found that prisoners have been tortured. Where is their right to be free of arbitrary arrest and exile?

What about here in Aotearoa?
According to human rights lawyer Rodney Harrison, despite the fact that the threat of terrorist’ attack is virtually non existent in Aotearoa New Zealand, a number of laws (eg. The Citizenship and Travel Documents Bill ) have been created and altered in the name of security and the war on terror’ that have reduced our freedoms. Also, with the exception of the Terrorism Suppression Act, they have no sunset clause’ which means the restrictions to our freedoms are not until the supposed threat’ has past, but permanently.

Ahmed Zaoui, an Algerian was imprisoned on the justification that he was a security threat but there was no expression of what he actually was accused of doing, as it was called classified security information’. Still now, he is under curfew in his home and awaiting the review of the security risk certificate issued against him.

What is a terrorist threat?
The word terrorist’ conjures up images of crazed fanatics killing indiscriminately. However there is no one terrorist’ group and the term is often used by those in power to describe those that they oppose. We need to understand what each of the separate groups is about and why they take the actions that they do. To understand the causes does not mean that you think the actions are acceptable or justified.

Also, think about how some of the actions of political leaders and media impacts on the risk of terror attacks. Creating a climate of intolerance and hyper-fear around religious difference or systems of government can exacerbate or create a threat where there was little or none to begin with.

It is understandable to have laws in place to be able to monitor and intercept possible threats to people. However, many of the definitions of threat are so vague that they could be used to justify interfering with people or groups, with no intent for violent acts, from expressing their opinion or taking part in groups.

For example, in February, British police cited the Prevention of Terrorism Act when they arrested and interrogated three actors from of a recent film based on the true story of three men imprisoned and finally released from Guantanamo Bay. The actors and the three men the story was based on were arresting when returning from the Berlin Film Festival where the film was screened. They were questioned about their travel, who they had met with and the political convictions of the film’s director. The actors had no specific political connections and seemed to only be singled out due to their Asian ethnicity.

Protect Your Rights
While it is important to feel safe from danger, what ever that may be, it is also equally important for people’s civil and political rights to be protected. We don’t need to give up our freedoms to do this. In the words of the United Nations Secretary General: “Our responses to terrorism as well as our efforts to thwart it and prevent it should uphold the human rights that terrorists aim to destroy. Human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law are essential tools in the effort to combat terrorism — not privileges to be sacrificed at a time of tension.”

It is our responsibility to know our rights and continue to exercise them. As Madonna once said: Express Yourself!

Some of the Articles in the Declaration of Human Rights

Article 9: “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.”

Article 19: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

Article 20: “Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.”

Article 5: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”

Article 12 “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence…”

Article 13 “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country’

Article 14 “Everyone has the right to seek and enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution”


  • Read the media critically, don’t buy into the fear
  • Understand your rights and use them


The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Amnesty International

UK police arrest stars of award-winning film “The Road to Guantanamo” under the Prevention of Terrorism Act

This article was originally published in Jet magazine in the Focus column.

My school the corporation

Thursday, December 15th, 2005

Omar Hamed coke

As I walked up the tree lined driveway to school one morning I was confronted by an interesting juxtaposition. A large Document Destruction Service truck pulled up next to the schools offices. What was the DDS doing outside Senior Management’s offices? Were they getting rid of unfavourable Education Review Office reports or the expenses lists for the Principals recent excursion to Wellington? The answer will doubtless remain a mystery thanks to a tax-payer funded document destruction. The truck drove away and suddenly the ironic site of the DDS outside an education institution was gone.

I suppose my judgement is unfair. As one Senior Manager of my school casually remarked to me the other day, “the school is basically a company”. Companies must protect their financial secrets at all costs and my school, which is “basically a company” seemed to be no exception. Companies are also designed to make money, lots of money. My school again seems to be no exception. The school in order to increase its revenue has even let some large multi-national American corporations use it wall space for advertising.

The school owned tuckshop proudly displays an advertisement for Coca-Cola opposite where hungry and thirsty students queue for overpriced junk food. A student can not help but notice this advert. The school is openly endorsing the products of Coca-Cola, actively encouraging students to buy from a corporation guilty of, “Complicity in the murder and torture of workers in Colombia” and “Depriving communities of water, poisoning land and water and selling poisoned drinks in India”. (Killercoke.org)

In response to Coca-Cola’s labour violations and the presence of pesticides in their products six Universities in the United States have dropped contracts with Coke. In Auckland, New Zealand, my high school, oblivious to the concerns of independent human rights organisations continues to sell the products of a corporation which sponsored the murder of eight union leaders.

The school which is you remember “basically a company” has to make money somehow and these days student donations just wont make ends meet. You just cant afford the swanky “achievers breakfasts” and a glossy prospectus that students need these days without selling at least some of your walls as billboard space for fast-food giant McDonalds. As the schools conservation committee meets to discuss environmental issues the logo of a corporation that uses over a million tonnes of unnecessary plastic waste each year shines over the school. McDonalds, a company with a track record of working to undermine unions and one which has sued (unsuccessfully) people in England who distributed information about the health, environmental and social effects of McDonalds is given advertising space by my school.

Another example of a company advertised at my school is Compaq, a multinational computer producer whose large red billboard is attached to the wall in the library. Compaq uses American prison labour to make computers. “For private business prison labor is like a pot of gold. No strikes. No union organizing. No health benefits, unemployment insurance, or workers’ compensation to pay. “ says Linda Evans, a prisoner in California.

Compaq uses what has been described as “the next best thing to slavery” to produce computers. It does not have to worry about maintaining decent standards for health or safety and the workforce can be beaten when they refuse to work, Lee Swepston, Senior Adviser for Human Rights to a United Nations organisation commented that these prison factories fall outside international law and are therefore open to exploitation of inmates. (Masked Racism: Reflections on the Prison Industrial Complex by Angela Y. Davis)

So the three corporations that endorse themselves through my school are in fact corporations with histories of murder, bullying and questionable ethics. These companies are designed to make money and inevitably put profits above human lives and dignity. My school as a public institution can refuse the in school advertisements of those who use forced labour or aggressive advertising practices. That’s the difference between corporations and public institutions, one is accountable to its members the other is not. Then again why would the school refuse money because if it is “basically a company’ it should basically not care?

We however should.

For more information about corporate crimes check out Corpwatch.

Profile of a pacific political prisoner

Wednesday, October 5th, 2005

Cameron Walker

Imagine being thrown in a filthy prison, where your cell mates mysteriously disappear’ overnight, just for waving your country’s flag. For many years this was a reality for my West Papuan friend Fransiskus Kandam.

To understand Fransiskus’ intriguing story it helps to know a little bit about the tragic story of his homeland, West Papua.

West Papua is the western half of the island of New Guinea (Papua New Guinea is the eastern half). The Dutch formally colonised West Papua in the nineteenth century. In the early 1960s they decided it was time for Papua to become an independent country, free to rule itself.

But in 1962, the Indonesian military invaded West Papua, seeking to claim it as part of Indonesia. The United Nations said Indonesia had to hold a vote to see if the Papuan people wanted to join Indonesia or become independent. West Papuans who supported independence were ruthlessly repressed by the Indonesian military. For example, in the village of Ifar Besar, 300 Papuan independence supporters were murdered. Papuans complained to UN officials, journalists and diplomats about how the military was treating them. An armed resistance movement, known as the OPM (Free Papua Organisation) was set up.

Most Papuan people wanted independence so the Indonesian military rigged the vote to ensure Papua became Indonesian. Just 1025 Papuan tribal leaders were picked out of a population of 1.5 million to vote — at gunpoint — on whether to join Indonesia or become independent. Not surprisingly they all voted in Indonesia’s favour. Since then, human rights groups estimate that at least 100,000 Papuans have been killed by the Indonesian military. Serious human rights abuses, such as murder, beatings, torture and rape, occur on a near daily basis.

West Papua’s vast natural resources, such as gold, copper and timber have been ruthlessly exploited by multinational corporations, such as the American mining giant Freeport, without any regard for the environment or the people whose villages have been displaced as a result of these activities. The corporations pay protection money’ to the Indonesian military to keep angry locals away from their operations.

Growing Up In Occupied Territory
When Fransiskus was growing up, his parents didn’t tell him about the Indonesian military or Papua’s history. “It was a forbidden issue” he says. His parents were scared that if he knew the truth he would join the resistance and put himself in danger. Once he started university, Fransiskus found out about what the Indonesian military was doing to his homeland. Without informing his parents, he started taking part in opposing the Indonesian military by raising awareness about human rights and environmental issues.

On December 1, 1989, a day Papuans mark as their unofficial independence day, he attended a celebration with 10,000 others, where a Papuan flag was illegally raised. Thirteen days later he was arrested and declared a subversive’. He was placed in a prison in Java Indonesia, along with other Papuan students and political prisoners from East Timor, which at that stage was also brutally occupied by the Indonesian military. Conditions in the prison were very bad. Papuan prisoners would disappear as often as the prison guards changed. Their families would never see them again.

Standing Up For Human Rights
Following his release from prison in 1997, Fransiskus continued to raise awareness around human rights and environmental issues as he did before his arrest. In 2001 Fransiskus and a friend were going to travel to Oxford University in Britain to study human rights. As they were about to leave his friend accidentally left some articles about West Papua in the back of a taxi. The taxi driver told the authorities and they were thrown in prison for five months without charge.

Indonesia’s government was using the post-9/11 climate as an excuse to label West Papuan human rights campaigners as terrorists’. With legal aid from a friend he sought political asylum in Australia and has since been granted permanent residence. In his new home of Adelaide he has joined up with other human rights activists to campaign for the rights of his people.

One day he dreams his homeland will finally be free.
This article was written as part of the Global Focus a collaborative project of Tearaway Magazine and the Global Education Centre. It was first published in Tearaway magazine and is reprinted here with their permission.