Journalists Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov have won the Nobel Peace Prize for their fight to defend freedom of expression in the Philippines and Russia.
Ressa, who co-founded the news site Rappler, was commended by the Nobel committee for using freedom of expression to "expose abuse of power, use of violence and growing authoritarianism in her native country, the Philippines," while Mr Muratov, the co-founder and editor of independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, was awarded the prestigious price for decades of work defended freedom of speech in Russia.
The award also came one day after the 15th anniversary of the killing of Anna Politkovskaya, one of six Novaya Gazeta reporters who have been murdered since the publication's inception in 1993. It was her deep reporting on the suffering of ordinary people during the first war in Chechnya that first brought global attention and prestige to Novaya Gazeta — and also what cost Politkovskaya her life, shot down as she entered the lift in her apartment block in Moscow on Oct. 7, 2006.
As Muratov dedicated the Nobel Peace Prize he won on Friday to his six colleagues murdered for their work, sadly the risks for those covering conflict and exposing wrongdoing continues. Already in 2021, at least 18 journalists have been killed around the world, including 14 assassinated. Here are some of their stories:
Borhan Uddin Muzakkir
On February 19, Borhan Uddin Muzakkir, a Bangladeshi correspondent for online news portal Barta Bazar and the Bangladesh Samachar, was shot in the throat while filming street clashes between two factions of the ruling Awami League party, in the Companiganj area of southern Noakhali district. As police and armed demonstrators opened fire during the intra party conflict, at least 50 people were injured and nine were shot.
Muzakkir's father filed a police murder case over the journalist's killing, which led to the arrest of three suspects. However, in late August, the three men were granted a three-month bail by the High Court, according to Bangladeshi daily The Independent. Muzakkir, was 25 years old at the time of his death.
Ricardo Domínguez López
Ricardo Domínguez López, the founder of news site InfoGuaymas, was shot and killed on July 22 by an unknown assailant using a .38 caliber handgun in a parking lot of a convenience store in the Mexican city of Guaymas.
López had said in a March press conference that he had received death threats from criminal gangs over his reporting, and that he was also subject to a smear campaign by local police — accusing López of having ties to organized crime. The day of the murder was López's 47th birthday.
According to Mexican daily Expansión Política, it was the second murder of a journalist in less than a week, following the killing of Abraham Mendoza outside a gym in Morelia, Michoacán. The publication also noted that at least 139 journalists have been assassinated in Mexico since the year 2000.
On July 16, Reuters correspondent Danish Siddiqui was killed while covering a clash between Afghan security forces and Taliban fighters near the border with Pakistan. Siddiqui, 38, was embedded with Afghan special forces at the time of his death, and had told his employer he'd been wounded in the arm by shrapnel earlier that day. Resuming work after receiving medical treatment, Siddiqui was talking to shopkeepers when the Taliban attacked, and was killed in a subsequent crossfire.
In 2017, a deadly crackdown by Myanmar's army on Rohingya Muslims sent hundreds of thousands fleeing across the border into Bangladesh. Siddiqui took this picture of an exhausted Rohingya refugee woman touching the shore after crossing the Bangladesh-Myanmar border by boat. The Reuters photography team of which Siddiqui was a member later won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for feature photography.
On April 26, Roberto Fraile — a Spanish journalist and cameraman — was kidnapped by unidentified attackers along with fellow Spanish journalist David Beriain and Irish conservationist Rory Young while filming a documentary about poaching in Pama, Burkina Faso. The next day, the three were confirmed to have been killed.
According to a statement by the Burkina Faso government, during an excursion the team's convoy came across a position held by terrorists who opened fire. Soldiers from the military escort tried to protect Fraile, Beriain and Young, but the three had disappeared by the time the shooting stopped.In a tweet the day following the kidnapping, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez extended a recognition of those who "carry out courageous and essential journalism from conflict zones on a daily basis."
In 2012, Fraile — who had worked for 20 years as a cameraman and filmmaker covering corruption, crime, human rights and conflict — was hit by shrapnel from a grenade in the Syrian war and had to undergo emergency surgery in Turkey. According to Spanish daily La Vanguardia, Fraile often used vacations and paid leave from his dayjob at broadcaster Televisión Castilla y Leónto to pursue passion projects like the one that brought him to Burkina Faso. He was 47 years old at the time of his death.
On June 13, Sulabh Srivastava, a reporter with Indian broadcasters ABP News and ABP Ganga, was declared dead at a hospital in the Pratapgarh district of Uttar Pradesh, shortly after his body was found near a brick kiln. Police initially said Srivastava had died in a motorcycle accident, but reports that he'd written a letter to the police just a day before his death, saying he was feeling threatened, prompted a police investigation.
The threats Srivastava received followed his reporting on a criminal liquor-selling group, according to reports by Indian The Wire. In his complaint, Srivastava said he was being followed and that sources had informed him the criminal outfit was planning to harm him for his coverage. According to New Delhi Television, A photograph of the body - taken at the scene of the "accident" - showed the journalist lying on the ground with what appear to be injuries to his face and his clothes seemed to have been almost entirely removed.
On February 3, Lebanese political commentator, journalist and activist Lokman Slim went missing after leaving the home of a friend near the town of Niha, south of Beirut. The following day, Slim was found shot dead in his car.
Slim was a prominent columnist and political voice who frequently contributed columns commenting on Lebanese politics and legislation to the French-language daily newspaper L'Orient Le Jour. He was especially known for his stance against the Shia political party and militant group Hezbollah and frequently received threats for his work relating to the group. In December 2019, Slim issued a statement saying that he believed Hezbollah to be fully responsible for threats he had received, and for any future attack on him or his family.
Slim's widow, Monika Borgmann — a German filmmaker who found first her vocation and then her husband in Lebanon — said in an interview with German broadcaster Deutsche Welle: "We worked and lived together for 20 years. They may have murdered Lokman, but his work lives on in all of us here."
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A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.
BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.
Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.
The incident at the cemetery
They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."
There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.
It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.
The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.
The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender
Crimes against Jews are rising
Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.
Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.
Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.
Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.
And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?
Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously
This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.
That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.
Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.
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