Friday, July 13, 2012

Ethiopian Free Speech Imprisoned

  A constitution guaranteeing free speech doesn’t necessarily ensure a voice is heard, especially when stifling opposition opinion is such a calculating art. Reuters’ headline, Ethiopia jails blogger, reporters, opposition figures covered the sentencing of twenty Ethiopians, including a prominent blogger, journalists and opposition figures who were sentenced for between eight years to life for conspiring with rebels to topple the government. After a deeply disputed trial according to the LA Times. Ethiopian prosecutors also, invoking the “Arab Spring” protests that rocked the Middle East, accused some defendants of trying to foment violence.
  European Union’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said she was “seriously concerned” by the severity of the sentences that were also condemned by Amnesty International and other rights groups. A statement from the EU’s Ashton’s office said she was concerned the sentences had “a lack of clarity with regard to what constitutes a terrorism offence” that “can affect the freedom of expression enshrined in the Ethiopian Constitution.”
  A major recipient of Western aid, Ethiopia is fighting separatist rebel movements and armed groups it says are backed by arch-foe Eritrea. But rights groups say Ethiopia regularly uses security concerns as an excuse to crack down on dissent and media freedoms. While no one was immediately available to comment on Friday, the Addis Ababa, Ethiopian government denies the charge and is a key ally in Washington’s campaign against Islamist militants in Somalia.
  Prominent blogger and journalist Eskinder Nega was arrested last year and accused of trying to incite violence with a series of online articles gaining him imprisonment for 18 years. Five other exiled journalists were sentenced in absentia to between 15 years to life. Andualem Arage, from the opposition Unity for Democracy and Justice Party was jailed for life. Two other prominent opposition figures, Berhanu Nega and Andargachew Tsige, both out of the country, received life sentences.
  Quoted by Reuters, Judge Endeshaw Adane said in court, “The court has given due considerations to the charges and the sentences are appropriate.” At the time of last month’s conviction, the court said free speech could be limited when it undermined security. The 20 were charged last year, most in absentia, with counts including conspiracy to dismantle the constitutional order, recruitment and training for terror acts and aiding Eritrea and a rebel group to disrupt security. They were also accused of belonging to Ginbot 7, a group branded a “terrorist” organization by the government. “We can’t even express our fundamental rights anymore,” UDJ member Temesgen Zewdie told Reuters after the sentencing.
  Amnesty International said: “The Ethiopian government is treating calls for peaceful protest as a terrorist act and is outlawing the legitimate activity of journalists and opposition members.” Ethiopia is close to replacing Eritrea as the African country with the highest number of journalists behind bars. Two journalists were each jailed for 14 years on similar charges in February, two months after two Swedish newsmen were sent to prison for 11 years on charges of entering the country illegally and aiding a rebel group.
  Free speech groups denounced the jail terms and slammed the Ethiopian terrorism law as excessively vague and repressive, leaving journalists who merely interview dissidents vulnerable to arrest. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said the trial in Addis Ababa was troublingly flawed.
  Peter Godwin, president of the PEN American Center anti-censorship group that honored Eskinder with its Freedom to Write award earlier this year, said, “The Ethiopian government clearly means to send a signal to its people. Speak against us, and you too could be jailed as a terrorist.”
  Before his arrest in September, Eskinder penned a column questioning the arrest of another dissident accused of terrorism, saying the idea that a frail, easygoing man under heavy police scrutiny was conspiring with extremists “defies logic.” Yet Eskinder ended on a hopeful note. “Tyranny is in retreat everywhere. It has lost one of its two last great bastions, the Arab world. The momentum is now on the side of freedom,” Eskinder wrote.
  After the sentencing, defense lawyer Abebe Guta told the Agence France-Presse news service that Eskinder would appeal his sentence, while his other clients were considering whether to do so. The Reporter Ethiopia.com also reported so there’s no lack of attention despite threat of government reprisal. Nonetheless nearly twenty years after world governments tried dissuading Nigeria from executing Ken Saro-Wiwa the problem remains of governments solving internal politics any way they see fit. Disregarding the rights of individuals where that relates to the undisputed power of the state.
8/13/2012
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August 18 - November 16, 2017
Ethiopian Free Speech Imprisoned
8/13/2012 concluded: After the sentencing, defense lawyer Abebe Guta told the Agence France-Presse news service that Eskinder would appeal his sentence, while his other clients were considering whether to do so. The Reporter Ethiopia.com also reported so there’s no lack of attention despite threat of government reprisal. Nonetheless nearly twenty years after world governments tried dissuading Nigeria from executing Ken Saro-Wiwa the problem remains of governments solving internal politics any way they see fit. Disregarding the rights of individuals where that relates to the undisputed power of the state.
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  That circumstances couldn't be more worse or wrong's a reasonable conjecture. But much worse, and wrong? All worst wrong. Impossible. But whatever explanations suffice, self-righteous zeal's what's held us all hostage to power's conceits. Terribly Exhaustive. 
History, Totally Destroyed by Crispin Sartwell. Pegs power's cultural history in The New York Times.
  Consciously taken for granted, the game of controlling what people think, is, overall, a grab bag of unintended consequences from timid to severe. What power's wrought, can't but thunderous complaint and derision hold off at all. Pray, even that's not just contrived illusion.
  Andualem Arage, Eskinder Nega, you, me, PEOPLE! Sure, every age has had a toying with minds for purely commercial purposes attached to it. Pillage by any other name. Money must stream and fine. But what the world's made of itself is not one expecting a general peace but excited by some eternal joy of competition. Such that as offended by violence, as we are. We've succumbed to a certain level of entertained hypnosis Aldous Huxley warned against. Technically, superficial celebrity competition substituting for an actual social awareness. It's all current events. 
  "And so it goes."
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  The following essay was submitted to The New York Times, August 14, 2017. (altering began Nov. 10, 2017) Because this appears here, most Florida, Georgia and Mississippi papers also silently declined, as well as many national and international publications. A Reason magazine editor appreciated the idea being passed by them. 
  Basically, no doubt, all abstentions are of a similar reasoning to a funding inquiry response from the Andy Warhol Foundation. "Unfortunately the project that you describe falls outside the bounds of the Foundation's guidelines and therefore we are unable to assist you." And an historical association apparently didn't blink stating their organization didn't fund presentations of that type. 
  When journalism's art is about what everyone agrees, perhaps jargon's been much too appealing to everyone? Well, now that the lark the many have spoken's been alluded to, here's what I wrote following the country's tragedy dumped on Charlottesville since the fashion's spreading blame and not really - 
FACING THE LEGACY
  I'd anticipated a week's more reflection for this Times submission, before last weekend's cultivated cultural catastrophe in Charlottesville, Virginia.   
  I offer no criticism as a white person, with possibly less of an obligation to apologize for the nonsense still going on, than, at least, some people. As this extremely pivotal event assisted in fashioning my life. November 3rd, 1972, some members of the Sanford, Florida Seminole High School Seminoles Marching Band executed a brilliant act of insubordination in, the currently named, Historic Sanford Memorial Stadium.     
  Before the half-time show's start, alert to suspicion, the Drum Major had even stepped back along the front end zone line and looked straight in my nodding nothing eyes. Surprise. At halftime's conclusion, without authorization, after the rest of the band cleared the field, a group of us suddenly replicated the famous FAMU Marching Band's spontaneous instrument twirling dance to a thunderous ovation.
  The full account of the collaboration's including two white guys, who weren't trusted with leaking beforehand, is on pages 153 - 156 in, the Cold War parody, The Hammer and Cycle Messenger Service. An almost throw-away line, at the time, that evocatively elucidates racism's ridiculousness, was - "we'd probably get in less trouble" with the two white guys.  
  Also said before halftime's start, was the house "I was raised in was now a black funeral home." While unremarked was my home was a block from, the infamous Lake County Sheriff, Willis V. McCall's. 
  Cleve snapped, "... it's not that far away. Don't you think we already knew that about you?" Then while drawling out, "I think we'll always be linked," my eyes glazed over looking along the line of black faces turned towards me.
  Whitewashed American History left a grime that's not cleansing because the future's only faced facing the past. Not just mirroring what's impossibly replaced. Solutions are scattered and bias ridden. Focus unfocused. Adjust the Criminal Enterprise System and stop pretending it's just the weak's delusions causing the disgraceful criminality and violence. This many centuries and still raising babies with violence? It's not just the politicians who're cornered into exploiting self-righteous misunderstandings. But all of us who, on various occasions, are more than entitled to be interpreted innocent. 
  My idea is for a Sanford Memorial Stadium Presentation that justly honors the worthy ambition of trying to set things right, as they say. An art gallery extravaganza as sophisticated as they come, I claim. I write. Such that the art's already conceived to mean the public's reflection. If this work just remains obscure, misunderstood and under-appreciated, or even disliked. Ta da.
  But my proposal is for those pages, 153 - 156, read in the Sanford stadium, to function as a better bookend to Sanford History than what the dysfunctional Zimmerman boy's disaster regurgitated up. Disregarding a police order not to pursue and end up killing an innocent, unarmed, teenager, bookends the portion of Sanford lore that was a baseball game on that site, then named, Sanford Field. Where baseball legend Jackie Robinson was so derisively derided he couldn't complete the run to first base. Obviously, legacy's everything. 
  Jackie Robinson. Plus someone who confessed their, being there, regret to me. Everyone deserves this idea's being made into a polished production. Though I'd, just as soon, comfortably read anywhere outside the fence if that expression carried more positive cultural weight. Curiously wondering where the paint would run on that stroke? All part of the American masterpiece. 
  Because I'm aspiring to something more, and different, than just tagging Roy Cohn's tombstone as currently shown in The Hour Hammer and Cycle Messenger Service and broadcast on 8 Ball Television. The Sanford reading as a (and Hyde Park, London) commercial broadcast production is per a Florida College TV station's informal request. 
  The reading will be from pitcher's mound, facing the first baseline where Jackie Robinson couldn't run out to first and left the game. The last time he stood down. (Deland cancelled.) But not the last time prejudice seeped from a cracked façade. 
  My mother raised me not to sit on my laurels. So having accomplished my goal of speaking in The Great Hall of Cooper Union, as Abraham Lincoln had on his way to the White House, I'm relieved to have at least thought of a follow up. The show, thus far, is this op-ed and funding page: 
Charles M. Fraser is a novelist and Soapbox View political satirist.
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  So white people in general didn't associate with the "reading apology" the first go round. As Wikipedia states of Sanford citizens, when their mayor publicly apologized, they either don't/didn't believe what happened to Robinson, did, or they don't appreciate that the stigma requires a resounding washing out. Whitewashing our lives is unfortunately where a lot of people place pride.  
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Ethiopian Free Speech Imprisoned
  Ethiopia curtails criticism in the name of internal security. The free ride from historical judgement the world's helplessly ruthless leadership expects as their due, i.e. etc., etc., etc. Power's conceit. 
  Here again, or just still, as an American president is defending the "our history" slant as well. Blatantly denying the self-absorbed justification involved. Stepped up a notch. Using "we" for him and "his" team. Cult of Personality sideshow. Politics modeled after a jousting tournament, reduced to Middle Age. And patriotic shield is the throne the mentor was crowned with. The term is the country's still being played. Nice touch, adherents worked up to adulatory levels of idolatry? Political Science, at the core, for exploitation not exposition. Operatives aren't even directly paid anymore. Networked's appeal. A dream of socialism for the rich that's denied the poor while, at least, a partially contrived façade about how welfare money, that trickles right up anyway, is the flaw, while our benefits of the socialistic bent helped preserve this president's fortune. Three Card Monty is the closest game analogy for how we're still being played by how the political cards are dealt. Not the law, but culture.
  History is, of course, broader than how any political buffoonery can be portrayed. 
Expand The Superficial Consciousness 
  So does the president stand for nothing more than remaining in the dark ages of belief? He's worn God on his shoulder as if the Creator's role were merely just back-up to whatever quackery supports a team's solid bottom line. Where we've landed, now in time, as an era, the late teens of the 21ST Century, is where we've always been. Maybe it seems America was founded on the belief there's just an us. But America was still built on an expanding consciousness forged by intellectual ambition. 
  Didn't know he'd win, when he'd already won? Forging a mantle of arrogance melded with the aloofness of our presidency? A loss on his part would have still left him in the game. Al Sharpton and Tawana Brawley/Our president and the birther issue, etcWatch. He's least able to go into the lame duck night. Precedence's mount. 
  Dear Mr. President, 
  This is a personal invitation, requesting your  contribution to my Sanford apology film described above. Not "our history" as contended? But history's really how everyone contrives it. Petty jealousy's in the White House and the call for a grasp of maturity is outside? Does somewhat appear so. Fake fact or not, there's reality for conjecture. 
  Anyway. Here. Have a look, Mr. President. This'll add some perspective on your legacy's destiny. Being ashamed of pure performance, is nothing compared to disappointment in cultural blinders
  Seeing patriotism spectacularly dressed to distraction, and flaunted, and repeated, repetitiously, has created an overall numbness. Despite the noise.
  People aren't just endeavoring to emblazon this culture with shame, as has been defensively portrayed by the "not the liberal media" media. There's a stench to the cluelessness of being fed up with liberals. People may as well as one chorus, loudly sing,
  As if all understanding required were labels. If, at least, that surface reality were understood, then more about the president's background personality might have been acknowledged culture-wide. Ah, tomorrow. American History is more than what's labelled "ours." Watch the cited filmabove the Pope cartoon. As I've written to President Putin. You guys have to get dis-entwined from some cultural flaws. Sooner the better, however legacy's are contrived.

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