UNESCO welcomes Nobel prize press awards

Brussels 09.10.2021 UNESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay welcomed the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov and Filipino journalist Maria Ressa, reads the statement issued on Saturday, October 10.

“By awarding this prize, the Nobel Committee stated its belief that the freedom of expression of opinions and access to information is the basis of democracy and peace,” Azoulay said. “These ideals fully resonated with the UNESCO mandate.”

According to Azoulay, “reporters are at the frontline of a fight for shedding light where necessary, oftentimes facing a huge risk.”

“Today, they are rightfully considered protectors of justice and truth,” the official said.

On Friday, the Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to Novaya Gazeta editor-in-chief Dmitry Muratov and Filipino journalist Maria Ressa for “their efforts on protection of the freedom of press, which the basis for democracy and sustainable peace.”.

AUSTRIA refuses Afghan migrants

Brussels 07.09.2021 This week Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has reiterated that he does not want to see a surge of Afghan migrants and praised Greece for reinforcing the external border of the European Union.

Chancellor Kurz made the remarks on Monday, September 6, during a press conference with Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić in Belgrade.

“If there are waves of migration from Afghanistan, migrants must be cared for in neighbouring countries. That is why we are in contact with the countries of that region,” Kurz said, according to Euronews.

Adding: “They must not go to Europe.”

President Vučić agreed with the Austrian chancellor’s sentiments, stating: “Those who leave Afghanistan have a clear goal: Western Europe and the United States. Not many of them want to stay in the Western Balkans. We will show solidarity with everyone, but we will not be the place where they can camp.”

Chancellor Kurz also praised the Greek government for its stance on fortifying the European Union external border, saying: “Today, at the external borders of the EU, these phenomena are better dealt with, and the approach is different than it was in 2015 when with European funds, i.e. European taxpayers’ money, migrants were promoted through Greece to other countries in Europe. ”

“This has changed. Greece is now making a significant contribution, making great efforts, to guard the EU’s external borders,” he said.

While Sebastian Kurz has come out against taking in large numbers of Afghan migrants, at home, his Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) and their stance on the issue has conflicted with their Green Party coalition partners.

The debate takes place while about 500 homeless people, mainly migrants including Afghans and families with children, set up tents on Wednesday September 1 in Paris, under the windows of the prefecture of the Ile-de-France region, in order to ask the state “Dignified and lasting hosting solutions”.

550 Afghan migrants welcomed in Hauts-de-Seine, accommodated in hotels.
At the same time, a homeless person is sentenced to prison for not wearing a mask.
“Hotel *** Mercure (in Strasbourg) for migrants, prison for the French” write indignant users of social networks.

“Western Bishops” welcome Afghans

Brussels 19.08.2021 Vatican News ‘Western Bishops’ Conferences are speaking out on the situation in Afghanistan, urging their governments to welcome those fleeing the country, and praying for peace through dialogue.

In view of the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan as the Taliban ascended power, Bishops in Western nations are calling on their governments to help people fleeing the country – especially those who risked their lives to assist the military mission that began 20 years ago. The address has been issued after the Taliban declared the general amnesty, underlining that they have “forgiven all those who fought” against them.

From the United States, Bishop Mario Dorsonville and Bishop David Malloy, chairs respectively of the USCCB’s Committees on Migration and on International Justice and Peace, issued a statement calling on the US government “to act with the utmost urgency, considering all avenues to preserve life.” They note that Catholic organizations and partners have been assisting the government in welcoming Afghan refugees and their families, and add that they “will continue to work as long as necessary until those who are in harm’s way are brought to safety.”

With Pope Francis, the statement says, the US Bishops are “praying for peace in Afghanistan – ‘that the clamor of weapons might cease and solutions can be found at the table of dialogue.’”

In Europe, the chairman of the German Bishops Conference, Bishop Georg Bätzing said he was “outraged by the widespread suffering and helplessness of those whose future is being stolen from them.”

He said, “The takeover by the Taliban in Afghanistan represents a disastrous defeat for the United States and the countries that until recently were committed to its side,” including Germany. He warned that the “life and limb of thousands and thousands of people are endangered and the flame of hope that has nourished them is extinguished” by the surrender of the country to the Taliban.

Bishop Bätzing insisted that western countries must evacuate Afghans who assisted their military forces and international aid organizations, saying “generous admission offers” should be granted, especially to those most at risk. He urged them to help countries in the region accept and care for refugees from Afghanistan, and said the European Union must be prepared to welcome refugees who arrive in Europe.

Bishops insisted on the power of prayer, and invited “everyone to join in prayer with the sufferings of the people of Afghanistan, and to call on God for His gracious help.”

EU stands with Russian civil society

Brussels 23.07.2021 “Russian authorities recently announced a number of new decisions targeting independent media outlets, journalists and civil society organisations” reads the statement by the European External Action Service spokesperson on the continued crackdown on independent media outlets, journalists and civil society in Russia.

“The Institute of Law and Public Policy (ILPP) and a number of journalists were designated as so-called “foreign agents”, and the media outlet Project Media, Inc. was declared a so-called “undesirable organisation”. In addition, the association of lawyers and journalists Team 29 (Komanda 29), defending human rights and fundamental freedoms in Russia, decided to cease its activities following pressure and unjustified accusations by the Russian authorities”.

“The cumulative impact of these latest developments, in conjunction with a raft of repressive measures targeting highly respected NGOs and individuals in Russia, results in further quashing dissent, opposition, critical voices and independent institutions from the Russian public sphere. This is particularly worrisome ahead of the State Duma elections in September”.

“The European Union has repeatedly condemned Russian laws on “foreign agents” and “undesirable organisations”, as they run counter to Russia’s international obligations and human rights commitments, including with regard to freedom of expression and association. We reiterate our call on the Russian authorities to reverse these decisions and to stop the unabated crackdown on civil society and independent media”.

“The European Union stands in solidarity with Russian civil society, human rights defenders and independent journalists and will continue to support them in their important work”.

Hungary receives support

Brussels 28.06.2021 Heading against the all-out campaign of the liberal mainstream against Hungary’s recently adopted child protection law, several European politicians rushed to its defense, Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs Péter Szijjártó wrote on his Facebook page. (Image belovw: Prime Minister Viktor Orban with his grandchildren).

Hungary’s new law, which enacted a variety of anti-abuse and anti-pedophile laws, also banned LGBT content or content that promotes children changing their gender from being shown to children under 18. The law has been criticised by the president of the EU Commission Ursula von der Leyen.

“The liberal mainstream has launched an unscrupulous fake news campaign against Hungary because we have made it clear that parents have the exclusive right to educate their children about their sexual orientation. But no matter what they say about us, we won’t let go of it! Get your hands off our children!” Szijjártó wrote, causing further polemics.

However Szijjártó has underlined the fact that there were those who “stood by us in spite of the terror of opinion from those who commit stigmatising, lying attacks. Thank you for standing by our country, you can count on us too!”

Among those who support Hungary were politicians in Poland, Italy, Estonia, and Slovakia.

“Children and families must be protected from being affected by any indoctrination activity. (…) There are clear rules that parents have the right to raise their child. I want to underline this very strongly, because I have a very deep conviction that it is a good attitude for parents to be able to decide who and on what principles can hold any kind of teaching-educational activities,” said Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.

According to Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis, the Hungarian law must be “satisfactorily explained”.
“I can’t judge, we agreed that we should discuss it in a V4 framework to make sure the interpretations are correct,” Babis has underlined.

“We are a little concerned about what is happening around Hungary. In Hungary, a law has been passed in the parliament to combat pedophilia, and there are also provisions dealing with homosexual education. (…) Is this a reason to exclude someone from the EU?” said former Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, adding that “the whole EU and the whole European Commission stood on its head”.

Matteo Salvini, the leader of the League party also came to the defense of the Hungarian law.

“Each state is free to decide how to organise its own schools, universities and judiciary. I don’t understand the interventions,” he said.

HUNGARY: Leyen expresses “legal concerns”

Brussels 23.06.2021 “This Hungarian bill is a shame. I have instructed the responsible commissioners to send a letter to express our legal concerns before the bill enters into force”

This bill clearly discriminates against people based on their sexual orientation. It goes against the fundamental values of the European Union. Human dignity, equality and respect for human rights.

“We will not compromise on these principles. I have said it before: I believe in a European Union where you are free to be who you are and love whomever you want. I believe in a Europe which embraces diversity.
I will use all the powers of the Commission to ensure that the rights of all EU citizens are guaranteed. Whoever they are and where ever they live within the European Union”.

Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg led the charge against Hungary’s anti-LGBT law while the European affairs ministers from the 27 EU countries met to discuss the rule of law. In total, 16 member states out of 27 expressed their disapproval of the Hungarian law.

Last week, the Hungarian parliament passed a new law tabled by the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán that bans the portrayal of homosexuality and sex reassignment during school education material and TV programmes addressed to people under 18 years of age.

The bill, approved during Pride month, was facing the condemnation from high-ranking officials of several EU countries and political groups in the European Parliament. The outrage over the Hungarian law was discussed by the EU Council, with the Benelux ministers gathering linked-minded countries in a critical statement against the legislation.

Following behind-the-scenes consultations, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Lithuania, Spain, Sweden and Latvia endorsed the Benelux text. Italy waited until the end of the meeting to add its name to the list, while Austria and Greece did so the following day.

“[The law] represents a flagrant form of discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and hence deserves to be condemned. Inclusion, human dignity and equality are core values of our European Union, and we cannot compromise on these principles,” the countries said.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban has expressed his opinion during the radio programme “Good morning, Hungary”, explaining that the law is not anti-gay, but defending children’s rights. “This is a law about the protection of our children” the Hungarian Prime Minister has underlined.

CoE calls Spain to release political prisoners

Brussels 21.06.2021 The Council of Europe, Strasbourg, France, has officially called on Spain to release Catalonia’s political prisoners and withdraw the extradition requests for their exiled colleagues. The parliamentary assembly of the institution green lighted a report by its Committee on Legal Affairs on the situation of political leaders behind bars in Spain and Turkey by 70 votes in favour, 28 against and 12 abstentions. They also overturned one by one and by a large majority the amendments of Spain’s PSOE and PP representatives who wanted to reduce the report’s critical content.

Latvian Socialist Boriss Cilevičs, who acted as rapporteur, visited Catalonia in February 2020 in order to write a report on political prisoners in Europe for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe after a score of council deputies proposed the initiative a month earlier.

During the session on Monday, rapporteur Cilevičs opened the debate, with a speech upholding his work and saying the convictions are “disproportionate” and “do not comply with the rule of law.” The representative highlighted that the politicians and activists are facing “a long time in jail, similar to rapists” for issues such as votes in parliament and peaceful protests during the exercises of their mandates.

While Cilevičs acknowledged that the referendum was held despite not being allowed by the Constitutional Court, he also reminded that holding such a vote was decriminalized in Spain. He said that disobedience – not carrying prison – could have been a reasonable crime for which to be convicted, but sedition “requires elements of violence” and the rallies ahead of October 1, 2017 were “peaceful.”

The politician, who also rejected the independence campaigners “using the report to promote separatism,” defended that public representatives should be “allowed to make statements that go against the Constitution.”
Spain’s resounding defeat: Council of Europe demands release of Catalan political prisoners and return of exiles

Report passed by a majority of 70 to 28 calls convictions “disproportionate” and demands withdrawing extradition requests for exiles.

EU supports Crimean Mejlis

Bruxelles 05.06.2021 “On 1 June, a so-called, Russia-run court in the Ukrainian city Simferopol sentenced in absentia Mr Refat Chubarov, Chairman of the Mejlis, the Crimean Tatar People’s self-governing body, to six years of prison and a fine for politically-motivated charges.

The European Union does not recognise Russia’s illegal annexation of the Crimean peninsula and therefore does not, and will not, recognise this “sentence” by an illegal court. The sentencing of Mr Chubarov constitutes a serious violation of his human rights and another example of the persecution of the Crimean Tatar community by the Russian “authorities”.

“It further illustrates the severe deterioration of human rights on the Crimean peninsula since its illegal annexation. The ban on the activities of the Mejlis must be reversed without further delay.

“The EU reiterates that all illegally detained Ukrainian citizens on the Crimean peninsula must be released immediately”.

The Crimean High Court ‘has sentenced’ Refat Chubarov, Head of the Mejlis, or representative assembly of the Crimean Tatar people to six years imprisonment and a RUB200 000 fine (approx. EUR2 000). The verdict and sentence both represent the political message, while Russian authorities banished Chubarov from his homeland within months of its establishing their jurisdiction in Crimea, and the trial was held in absentia.

The verdict was passed in absentia  because the leader of the Mejlis, which is listed in Russia as an “extremist ogranisation”, but nowadays is located in Ukraine. The court found Chubarov guilty of organising riots outside the building of Crimea Parliament on February 26, 2014, which led to incidental death of two people. The head of Crimea, Sergei Aksenov, also supported the court’s decision, stating that Chubarov is a “professional provocateur”.

Russian independent medium dissolves

Brussels 31.05.2021 Newsru site which has functioned primarily as a news aggregator in recent years, said it was not possible for them to continue operations for economic reasons.

“Many thanks to all of you who have been reading us for 21 years. We know for sure that many stayed with us all this time. Lately there have been 3 million of you a month” reads the announcement of Newsru site.

“From August 1, 2000 to May 31, 2021, every day we tried to fulfil our professional duties with utmost honesty, namely, to tell what is important in the country and in the world, to compose an objective information picture of the day.
“At the very beginning of the century we were NTV.ru, for the first time in Russia a television news site was created, the very same NTV, the 20th anniversary of the destruction of which was remembered quite recently.
“For most of our employees today, working on this information site has taken most of their lives. Many of us have worked here since its opening.

“We stop working for economic reasons, but they are caused precisely by the political situation in our country. After 2014, it became clear that not only geography and foreign policy, but also the domestic economy were changing radically.

“Our picture of the day began to differ so much from the picture preferred by state resources that large advertisers stopped cooperating with us after the events of 2014, and the rest began to be especially afraid this year.
“More and more often we had to write about the adoption of restrictive laws that could affect us ourselves any day. We had to label more and more respected people and sources of truthful information as foreign agents and extremists.
“The situation in the economy and in the legal field makes the high-quality work of NEWSru.com more impossible.
“We say goodbye to you, but for now we leave open the entire archive accumulated over 21 years of work. And this is 1 million 172 thousand 931 news (not including this one). This history of the events of the 21st century is extremely important for understanding what is happening today. The archive will help you not to be naive and gullible, it will help you to compare the facts and answer many questions.
“For us, this is the last message for today.
“We sadly say goodbye to our totally unique and loyal audience.
“Your NEWSru.com.

Airlines: Russia attempts to retaliate

Brussels 28.05.2021 Airlines revealed Russia has blocked some European flights avoiding Belarus airspace in a standoff over the arrest of a Belarusian journalist, as his parents pleaded Thursday for international help to get him released.

The G7 global powers also demanded Minsk release Roman Protasevich and the EU’s foreign policy chief threatened hard-hitting economic sanctions.

Belarus’s strongman President Alexander Lukashenko sparked international outrage by dispatching a fighter jet Sunday to intercept a Ryanair flight from Athens to Vilnius carrying Roman Protasevich, 26, and his girlfriend Sofia Sapega, 23.

A nervous-looking Protasevich was last seen in a video released by Belarusian authorities on Monday in which he was seen supposedly admitting to helping to organise mass unrest, a charge that could land him in jail for 15 years.

“I want you to relay our appeal everywhere, throughout the world, to government representatives, to EU countries, to EU leaders, to US leaders: I am appealing, I am begging, help me free my son,” his mother Natalia told journalists in Warsaw, visibly moved.

Roman’s father, Dmitry said his son was “a tough man” and “a hero”. After almost three decades of service in Belarus armed forces Dmitry was sacked by Lukashenko order as a demonstrative punitive measure for his son’s political activity.

“Throughout his life he fought for the truth and passed it on to people, which is why Lukashenko committed this despicable act,” he said.

The family and their lawyer confirmed that they have not had any communication with their son since his arrest.

Foreign ministers of the Group of Seven wealthy nations on Thursday, May 27, demanded the “immediate and unconditional release” of Protasevich, “as well as all other journalists and political prisoners held in Belarus”, in a joint statement published by the British government.