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Egypt: Revisiting the Demands

Global Voices | February 10, 2011

A list of demands from the protesters at Tahrir Square is being circulated online today, the 17th day of massive demonstrations across Egypt calling for the overthrow of the Mubarak regime. The first item calls for the resignation of president Hosni Mubarak.

Wael Khalil lists those demands on his blog (Ar) and says:

These demands are the summary of various discussions at Tahrir Square, and are, of course, not representative of everyone at the square
The immediate demands are:

1. The resignation of president Mohammed Hosni Mubarak
2. Canceling the Emergency Law
3. Dismantling the state secret service
4. An announcement by (Vice-President) Omar Sulieman that he will not run in the next presidential elections
5. Dissolving the Parliament and Shura Council
6. Releasing all the prisoners since January 25
7. Ending the curfew so that life resumes as normal across the country
8. Dismantling the university guards system
9. Referring officials responsible for the use of violence against the peaceful protesters since January 25 and those responsible for the organised thuggery which followed January 28 to an investigation committee
10. Sacking Anas El Fiqi and stopping the attack on protesters in government owned media through threats and calling protesters traitors, and ending the spread of hate against foreigners in the streets
11. Reimbursing shop owners for their losses during the curfew
12. Announcing the demands above on government television and radio

Wael Khalil also lists demands for the transitional period as follows:

1. Drafting a new constitution
2. The right to set up newspapers and open television and radio stations without a prior permission
3. Putting the minimum wage of 1,200 Egyptian Pounds into effect
4. The right to set up political parties, by notification
5. The right to set up associations and unions, by notification
6. Achieving a real autonomy and independence for national newspapers and television and radio stations, through new legislation and the reformation of companies, establishments of ministries
7. Cancling the national service in the police force
8. Ending the security clampdown on telecommunications and the internet

Emphasis – Aletho News

February 27, 2011 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Economics, Solidarity and Activism | 3 Comments

Iraq: Security Forces Raid Press Freedom Group

Equipment, Documents Seized in 2 a.m. Break-In

HRW | February 26, 2011

(New York) – Iraqi authorities should immediately investigate a raid by security forces on the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory (JFO), a prominent Iraqi press freedom group, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch also called on the government to ensure the speedy and safe return of all seized equipment and documents.

At about 2 a.m. on February 23, 2011, more than 20 armed men, some of them wearing brown military uniforms and red berets, and others wearing black military uniforms with skull-and-cross-bones insignia on their helmets, pulled up in Humvees outside the group’s office in Baghdad and broke in, a witness told Human Rights Watch. The security forces conducted a destructive search of the office that lasted more than an hour and seized the organization’s computers, external hard drives, cameras, cell phones, CDs, documents, and several flak jackets and helmets marked “Press,” the witness said.

“This raid on the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory shows the contempt of Iraqi authorities for groups that challenge the state’s human rights record,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

A spokesman for the Baghdad Operations Command confirmed to Human Rights Watch that the men were part of the Iraqi army but gave few other details.

Ziyad al-Ajili, the group’s executive director, told Human Rights Watch that the authorities “were obviously sending us a message to stop our work of supporting journalists…. This kind of governmental intimidation is precisely what we try to shed light on.” In Iraqi television interviews over the days leading up to the raid, al-Ajili voiced support for the right of Iraqis to protest peacefully and the media’s right to report on the protests.

Human Rights Watch visited the group’s office the morning after the raid and saw extensive damage, including broken furniture, destroyed equipment, kicked-in doors, and ripped-up posters and literature for the organization’s events, such as their annual “Press Courage Awards.” Framed photographs of journalists killed in Iraq since 2003 were strewn on the floor, covered in broken glass.

Human Rights Watch expressed concern that authorities would not return the computer hard drives and other electronic data storage devices seized from the group.

Al-Ajili said he fears that the authorities used the raid as a pretext to close the office, which serves as an informal gathering point for local journalists. In late January, the group held an awards ceremony in Baghdad, honoring investigative journalists who had uncovered corruption and other wrongdoing.

Although improvements in security since 2008 have reduced the assaults against media workers, journalists and press freedom advocates remain at risk in Iraq. On February 21, Human Rights Watch released a survey report, “At a Crossroads: Human Rights in Iraq Eight Years After the US-led Invasion,” which documents attacks against media and press restrictions. The report calls on the government to protect the rights of journalists and to amend its penal code and other laws that violate freedom of speech.

February 27, 2011 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | 1 Comment

Media lies: Spate of headlines tying Libya and Venezuela together

By Kiraz Janicke & Federico Fuentes | Green Left | February 27, 2011

As the wave of popular uprisings has spread across the Arab world, a flurry of articles have appeared suggesting Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez could be the next “dictator” to be overthrown.

Such arguments follow a pattern in the corporate media of slandering the Chavez government and the revolutionary process it leads.

They aim to conceal the real threat that haunts imperialism: that the Arab world may follow the example of Venezuela and other countries in Latin America — and break away from Western hegemony.

Particularly cynical were the comments by British foreign secretary William Hague, who falsely alleged Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi had fled to Venezuela on February 21. This triggered a spate of headlines tying “Venezuela” and “Libya” together — despite the fact the allegation was untrue.

A February 2 editorial by the Miami Herald claimed: “With dictators toppling like dominoes across the Middle East, Venezuela’s president-for-life, Hugo Chavez, is signaling worry about his own despotic rule.”

The article ignores the fact that Chavez was overwhelming elected as president in three elections supervised by numerous international observers. All up, pro-Chavez forces have won more than a dozen national elections, all verified as free and fair, since 1998.

With new elections set for 2012, Chavez maintains more than 50% support — even in polls commissioned by the US-funded opposition.

Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres went further when he listed Chavez along with Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as two despots corrupted by oil that must be eliminated.

“I believe the world should get rid of oil and tyranny, both of them together are dangerous,” Peres said, VoiceofAmerica.com reported on February 23.

Peres was at least more honest than most, adding that his reason was because Europe has to pay higher oil prices due to the “whims of some producer countries”.

The reality is that as US hegemony is being challenged by the popular uprisings in the Arab world, right-wing commentators and policy-makers are scrambling to spin the situation to their own advantage.

They are singling out governments outside of US control as possible targets for enforced “regime change” from outside.

Responding to the idea that Venezuela could be next, Chavez noted on February 18 that what was occurring in Egypt “started here a while ago. We have been in rebellion for a while now, in a revolutionary rebellion.”

Chavez said that rebellion began in Venezuela with the February 1989 popular uprising known as the Caracazo.

The Caracazo in Venezuela, 1989

As a result of International Monetary Fund-imposed hikes in fuel prices, tens of thousands of Venezuelans poured onto the streets of Caracas and other major cities to protest against the neoliberal measure.

A brutal crackdown left an estimated 4000 dead and temporarily quelled the rebellion.

However, the fervour continued in Venezuelan society, leading to Chavez’s election in 1998 on an anti-neoliberal platform.

Chavez said: “What happened in Egypt — and which has not finished — is a sudden awakening of people’s power. We have only seen the first waves.

“They are events that mark a new phase of history in the entire world.”

One of Chavez’s first moves when he was elected was to strengthen the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and use it to negotiate a more just oil price for countries dependent on oil revenues.

Chavez also took back government control over Venezuela’s nominally state-run oil industry. These moves have allowed his government to pour much of the oil revenue into social programs.

These wide-ranging programs eradicated illiteracy and extended free education and healthcare to the most needy. They have also been crucial to the process of expanding community control over the running their affairs.

The Chavez government has also used oil revenues to seek to develop other sectors of the economy to help break oil dependency.

To follow the mainstream media, you would get the impression the Chavez government is working overtime to silence freedom of speech. The reality, however, is not one TV station or newspaper has been closed down — and the overwhelming majority are virulently anti-government.

On the other hand, hundreds of new community radio stations are flourishing in the impoverished barrios, extending free speech to those who have never had the opportunity to exercise it before.

The US-backed dictators in the Arab world have consistently placed relations with Israel above the interests of the Palestinian people — despite the popular sympathy for the Palestinian cause among Arab people.

In contrast, since December, nine South American countries have formally recognised a sovereign Palestinian state.

Chavez’s government, and Bolivia’s radical president Evo Morales, have gone further. They broke all diplomatic relations with Israel after its brutal onslaught against Gaza in 2009.

Andelfo Garcia, a former foreign minister of the most loyal US ally in the region, Colombia, said in the February 19 Miami Herald that this move is just one more sign that South American countries are no longer simply adopting US foreign policy as their own.

“It’s like a wave rolling through Latin America,” he said. “The region has its own vision and wants to play a larger role [on the world stage].”

Venezuela has been in the forefront of moves towards greater regional integration, and a shift away from traditional dependence on trade with the US — as well as greater trade and dialogue with other parts of the Third World, such as the Middle East.

The US and Israel are terrified of the threat of something similar occurring in the Arab world — should the democratic revolutions be successful and extend to exerting democratic control over oil and other resources.

It also helps explain why Chavez is hailed by so many in the Arab world as a hero.

However, as Santiago Alba Rico and Alma Allende said in a February 24 Rebelion article “From the Arab world to Latin America”, Venezuela and Cuba’s reluctance to clearly condemn the brutal repression being carried out by the regime of Muammar Gaddafi’s against a popular revolt will have negative consequences for the anti-imperialist project in Latin America.

Venezuela and Cuba have called for a “peaceful resolution” to the violence in Libya and warned the West could use the bloody scenes as an excuse to intervene.

The Arab revolt represents both an “economic revolt” and a “democratic, nationalist and anti-colonial revolution”, they said, that “provides the socialist left and pan-Arabists in the region with an unexpected opportunity”.

They said: “the Arab people, who have returned to the world stage, need the support of their Latin American brothers”.

The pioneering processes of liberation in Latin America, are a symbol of hope for the global anti-imperialist struggle. Therefore, left-wing Latin American governments should unreservedly support the peoples of the Arab world.

This would pre-empt the strategy of the Western powers, which are trying to relegitimise themselves as champions of “human rights and democracy” and may seek to use Gaddafi’s crimes as an excuse to intervene militarily.

Ignoring the brutal reality of Gaddafi, who has been a friend in recent years of the West and its allied dictators, risks breaking ties with popular Arab movements, they pointed out.

It could also give legitimacy to the false accusations thrown at Venezuela and Cuba by imperialism.

They added: “Hopefully Gaddafi will fall — today better that tomorrow.”

They said the wave of revolts in the Arab world could connect with the revolutionary processes in Latin America. They wrote: “The opportunity is great and could be the last to definitively reverse the current balance of forces and isolate the imperialist powers in a new global framework.”

One thing is clear, just as the US has sought to prop up dictatorships in the Arab world, it will continue its struggle to defeat the popular revolutionary movements in Latin America.

Eva Golinger said in Correo del Orinoco International on February 18 that US President Barack Obama had requested US$5 million dollars in special funding from the US Congress special funding for anti-Chavez groups in the 2012 budget.

On February 18 Venezuelanalysis.com said that Venezuelan parliamentarians had condemned threats from Republican congressmen and the newly appointed chair of the House sub-committee on foreign affairs for the Western hemisphere, Connie Mack.

Mack, has called for a “full-scale economic embargo” against Venezuela.

The real threat to Venezuelan democracy, as across Latin America and the Arab world, comes from the US Empire.

~

Kiraz Janicke and Federico Fuentes worked in the Green Left Weekly Caracas bureau from 2007-10.

February 27, 2011 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | Comments Off on Media lies: Spate of headlines tying Libya and Venezuela together