NEWS - Archive January 2014

Headlines 31 January, 2014

European lawmakers urge E.U. to reinstate anti-Semitism definition

31/1/2014- Twenty-four European parliamentarians called on the European Union to reinstate its working definition of anti-Semitism. The call was unanimously adopted on Tuesday by the lawmakers, who had traveled to Poland earlier this week to attend a ceremonial joint session with 58 Knesset members and dozens of counterparts from the Polish parliament on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The lawmakers said they will seek to have the E.U. Fundamental Rights Agency “unequivocally stand behind its own working definition of anti-Semitism” during a meeting with members of the European Forum of the Knesset, a caucus of Knesset members.

In 2005, the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia adopted a working definition of anti-Semitism which included demonization of the State of Israel and its comparison to Nazi Germany. But the Fundamental Rights Agency, the body which replaced the center, recently removed the definition from its website, saying it was unable to establish a definition. “There has never been a more pressing time for European Parliamentarians and elected officials to show a clear sign of their determination and willingness to fight anti-Semitism,” said Vladimir Sloutsker, chair of the Brussels-based European Friends of Israel organization, which brought the European parliamentarians to Poland along with the Israeli-Jewish Congress.
JTA News

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Kosovo Online Media Urged to Curb Hate Speech

An NGO in Pristina has urged online media outlets to ban readers’ comments that are flagrantly offensive and incite hatred - saying very few of them now exercise any such control.

31/1/2014- The Youth Initiative for Human Rights said a large number of online media in Kosovo permit "offensive, denigrating and humiliating language, which potentially incite hatred”. After monitoring nine Kosovo websites in 2012 and 2013, the NGO concluded that most portals "do not filter comments at all, allowing hate speech through insulting expressions, denigration, humiliation and often also calls for violence against certain persons or groups. “Expressions like ‘shkijet’ (an offensive term for Serbs), ‘maxhup’ (an offensive term for Roma), ‘pedera’ (an offensive term for gays) are common in portals, with some exceptions”, the organisation said it its report, “In the name of freedom of expression”.

Alma Lama, a lawmaker, harshly criticized Kosovo's news portals, claiming that “most are part of someone’s political agenda and serve political parties. I am not talking just about parties which are fundamentalist and want Sharia law, I am also talking about other parties,” she said. Lama was attacked in various news portals after she criticized the speech of a Muslim cleric on the role of women in society. “These media do not obey the law,” she said. Incitement to hatred is a criminal offence in Kosovo, punishable by a fine or imprisonment up to ten years. However, Adriatik Kelmendi, an editor at TV KohaVision, said censorshop was not the answer. “This problem cannot be solved by closing comments or detaining people,” he said. “There is a need to educate and raise awareness among the media. On the other hand, the media have to become more determined [to address the matter].”

The Press Council of Kosovo, one of the main bodies responsible to tracking the print media, has no power to fine media outlets, but advocates obedience to a code of conduct for the media. The code, based on international standards of journalistic practice, is intended as the foundation of a system of self-regulation that should be considered binding on reporters, editors, owners and publishers of newspapers and periodicals. Imer Mushkolaj, deputy head of the board of the Council, said online media are responsible for the comments they publish, "just as they are responsible for the news articles they print”. The annual report for 2012 of the Independent Media Commission, IMC, said 83 radio and 21 TV stations were operating in Kosovo in 2012 alongside eight daily newspapers. There are no figures on the number of news portals operating in the country.
Balkan Insight

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Armenian MP urges to prosecute Azeri leader over racism

29/1/2013- Armenian member of parliament Naira Zohrabyan urged to institute criminal proceedings against Azeri President Ilham Aliyev over his racist statements, Panorama.am reports. At the winter session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), the Prosperous Armenia faction secretary called to take urgent measures to prevent the spread intolerance, racism and xenophobia across Europe. In this context, Ms Zohrabyan reminded of the Azeri President’s statement, “a masterpiece of racism and intolerance,” at a Baku-hosted Euronest event two years ago. “Aliyev called members of the PACE Armenian delegation as well as the people of Armenia fascists, throwing unfounded accusations against them. Yet no one, beside the members of the Armenian delegation, took care to explain to Aliyev that this is not the way the leader of the CoE member state should behave,” she stressed.

“As was earlier noted, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) voiced a suggestion to criminalize racial crimes. I support it, and urge to persecute Aliyev whose remarks were a blatant display of Armenophobia and racism. It was the atmosphere of hatred that prompted the actions of the Azeri axe-killer Ramil Safarov, with every child in Azerbaijan brainwashed to view Armenia as an enemy,” the MP noted. “I sent excerpts from Azeri textbooks, overtly promoting hatred towards Armenians, representing the latters as killers and thugs, to the newly-elected CoE Human Rights Commissioner. So far, I got no reply. A person elected to this responsible position, sees it unnecessary to fulfill his obligations or perhaps is reluctant to stir discontent among his Azeri colleagues,” the Armenian MP stressed.

On April 3, 2012, Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev called Armenians occupiers and fascists during a speech at the Euronest Plenary Session, angering the Armenian parliamentary delegation and shocking European officials gathered at the meeting.
Pan Armenian

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Belgian Lawmaker Performs Anti-Semitic Quenelle in Parliament

By JTA
Laurent Louis Accuses Zionists of Bankrolling Holocaust 

30/1/2014- The president of Belgium’s parliament condemned the actions of a lawmaker who said that Zionists were responsible for the Holocaust and performed a quasi-Nazi salute in parliament. “I would like to reinforce my condemnation of these hateful acts,” Andre Flahaut said on Jan. 23 in reference to the actions of Laurent Louis, who on Jan. 16 said in parliament: “The Holocaust was set up and financed by the pioneers of Zionism.” The Belgian League Against Anti-Semitism, a newly-established watchdog, pledged during its inaugural event to focus much of its activities on Louis — an independent member of the lower house of Belgium’s Federal Parliament. “We do not wish to offer Laurent a podium,” Isaac Franco, the league’s vice president, said during the Jan. 27 event in Brussels. “But upon consulting the tens of thousands of visitors to his website, we see he represents a threat that needs to be confronted.”

The league’s president, Joel Rubinfeld, told JTA that Louis has a rich history of making anti-Semitic and revisionist statements on the Holocaust. Recently, he said that Israel was guilty of Nazi crimes against Palestinians. Last year, he posed for pictures outside parliament while standing on an Israeli flag. The CCOJB, the umbrella group representing French-speaking Belgian Jews, said last week it would file a complaint against Louis, who entered parliament as a representative of the small center-right People’s Party, but he was kicked out of the party and now remains in the body as a non-partisan. During his address about the Holocaust, Louis also performed the quenelle — a salute which was invented by the anti-Semitic comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala and which involves folding one’s arm over one’s chest while pointing downwards with the other arm.

Dieudonne, who has seven convictions for anti-Semitism, is currently under investigation by tax authorities on suspicion that he is concealing funds in order not to pay roughly $90,000 in fines imposed on him for the statements. Police recovered and confiscated nearly $900,000 at his home during a raid Tuesday, according to a report Wednesday by the RTL news network.
The Forward

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Online anti-black racism cases double after Zwarte Piet debate (Netherlands)

28/1/2014- Anti Black “online” racism doubled last year, according to the annual report of the Hotline Internet Discrimination, a division of the Magenta Foundation, which was recently published. The Hotline thinks the Black Piet debate caused a spike in racist comments online. With 193 registered complaints about racist comments, of which 103 punishable acts, online anti-black racist comments doubled compared to 2012. Anti-Semitic and Islamophobic complaints still take first and second place, same as in 2012 and the year before. Anti-black racism however doubled, and went from 5th place last year, after discrimination based on different nationality on third, and discrimination against Moroccans on fourth, to third place in 2013, due to the Black Piet discussions.
The NL Times

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At least ten hurt in xenophobic attacks in Russia in January

31/1/2014- Ten people were injured and one died in Russia this January in xenophobic attacks, the Sova human rights center told Interfax on Friday. "No less than ten people were hurt in racist and neo-Nazi attacks in January. One, a citizen of Tajikistan, was killed in Moscow," the xenophobia monitoring center said. At least four acts of vandalism motivated by hatred or neo-Nazi ideology were perpetrated in Russia in January, Sova reported. Moscow and St. Petersburg topped the list of Russian regions in hate crimes in 2013, the center reported earlier. "According to tentative estimates, 20 died and at least 173 were injured in such attacks in 32 regions of Russia in 2013," the activists said.

"The levels of violence were the highest in Moscow (eight dead and 53 injured) and St. Petersburg (three dead and 32 injured). There were many casualties in the Lipetsk region (four dead and nine injured), the Chelyabinsk and Moscow regions (eight injured in each) and the Sverdlovsk region (two dead and four injured)," Sova said. People with origins in Central Asia (13 dead and 39 injured) and the Caucasus (three dead and 26 injured) were the main targets of ultra-right-wing forces last year, it noted. Casualties grew significantly amongst religious groups and the LGBT community in 2013, Sova continued. Meanwhile, the number of attacks against youth sub-cultures and left-wing movement members, which were a major target for attacks in 2012, declined last year.

Federal Migration Service head Konstantin Romodanovsky admitted on December 9, 2013, the problem of xenophobia and ethnic intolerance in Russia. "Unfortunately, more cases of intolerance and xenophobia can be observed, which eventually leads to an escalation of inter-ethnic disputes," he said. Many foreigners are the ones to blame for the negative attitude of locals, Romodanovsky said. "This category behaves in Russia the way they are used to behaving in their homeland. Certainly, this causes justified irritation of our citizens. This fact cannot but cause negative reactions from the local population," Romodanovsky said. "Such moods of our citizens are skillfully used by radicals in order to incite national hatred, fear of migrants and sometimes racism," Romodanovsky said.

He also said in a lecture delivered at the Moscow State University on December 6 that migrants who settled down in central areas of Russia had to adapt to local realities instead of being an irritant to the local population. "Clearly, kebab cookouts, ethnic dancing or introduction of some Central Asian customs irritate our population, which has a good reason to be irritated," he said. "Therefore, integration and adaptation are important so that they live by our rules," Romodanovsky said.
Interfax

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A Russian newspaper editor has been fined 50,000 roubles (£860) under the ‘gay propaganda’ law for printing that “being gay is normal”.

30/1/2014- Alexander Suturin, the editor-in-chief of newspaper Molodoi Dalnevostochnik, was found guilty of breaking the law, as the article propagated “homosexual relations”. In being found guilty, his newspaper became the first media outlet to have been found in breach of the law. Last September the newspaper printed an interview with Alexander Yermoshkin, a teacher fired for being gay, in which he talked about his dismissal, his attack by a neo-Nazi group, and involvement in LGBT demonstrations. The prosecution said the piece had broken “traditional family values” to promote “genderless and fruitless so-called tolerance”. The fine was half of the maximum possible, and is over three times the average monthly wage in the region. The newspaper also risked being shut down.

State investigators took offence specifically at one quotation said by Mr Yermoshkin: “My very existence is effective proof that being gay is normal.” While sentencing, the judge said that the statement is “contrary to the laws of logic”, and could lead them to believe “serial killers” are also normal. The editor had used the defence that the article shows the negative sides of being gay in Russia, and cited constitutional provisions outlawing discrimination. President Vladimir Putin signed into law a bill targeting “non-traditional” relationships last year. Individuals found guilty of violating the “gay propaganda” law can be fined up to 100,000 rubles (£1720), while legal entities face a maximum penalty of 1 million rubles. Broadway stars recently released a sketch video in which ‘Russian Broadway’ is shut down due to the law.
Pink News

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IOM releases Mediterranean boat migrant count

Some 45,000 boat migrants, including thousands of children, made dangerous crossings of the Mediterranean to land in Italy and Malta in 2013, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

28/1/2014- Most were fleeing wars or abuses, said the intergovernmental organization on Tuesday. It listed 11,300 migrants fleeing Syria, 9,800 from Eritrea and 3,200 from Somalia. Among them were 8,300 minors; two-thirds of these were unaccompanied. The IOM said its 2013 total was a sharp jump from the 13,000 recorded in 2012, but down on the 63,000 recorded in 2011 during armed sectarian conflict in Libya. The IOM said the "real" tragedies had involved those migrants who had disappeared untraced at sea during capsizes of flimsy, overcrowded boats, which border authorities claim are often operated by smugglers.

Relatives left not knowing fate
These migrants vanished and "simply remain unknown," said Jose Angel Oropeza, IOM's leading coordinator for the Mediterranean based in Rome. "Numerous relatives of the victims are still waiting to know," Oropeza said, referring to the loss of at least 400 lives in October in shipwrecks off Italy's island of Lampedusa - located near Libya and Tunisia - and off Malta. Losses over the past 20 years among refugees headed for Italy totaled more than 20,000, the IOM said, including 2,300 in 2011 – the year of the Libya crisis. The IOM, which works closely with the UN and whose membership includes 155 nations, said landings were continuing off Italy even during Europe's winter months. Last Friday, 204 migrants had been rescued by the Italian navy in the Straits of Sicily. "We need to find ways to make migration safe and to give these people real choices," Oropeza said.

Protest with sewn lips
On Sunday, 13 Moroccan migrants held at a reception center in Rome for more than two months, protested by sewing their lips together. "They've been left in complete uncertainty, no one has explained anything to them," said Gabriella Guido, spokeswoman for the migrant advocacy group LasciateCIEntrare. Campaigners say most migrants want to go to other European countries but can find themselves stuck in limbo in Italy.

Political wrangle
Last month, the coalition government of Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta pledged to improve conditions at overloaded reception centers and revised legislation. Right-wing groups, including the anti-immigrant Northern League accuse officials of being overgenerous in comparison to Italians struggling amid economic recession. Two weeks ago, Italian naval vessels and a passing cargo ship rescued more than 500 migrants in three operations off Italy's southern coast. Last year, the European Commission recommended reinforcing air and sea patrols to detect and intercept migrant boats in line with a plan by EU border patrol agency Frontex.
The Deutsche Welle.

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British blogger who was in touch with mass murderer Anders Breivik is fined €5,000 for defaming a UK national as mentor to the Norwegian

28/1/2014- A British far-right activist, Paul Adam Cinato, has been ordered to pay €5,000 in damages to a UK national after publishing three articles in his personal blog in 2012, which were deemed defamatory by the Maltese courts. Cinato - also known as Paul Ray - is a former activist of the anti-muslim English Defence League, who acquired notoriety in the aftermath of Anders Breivik's massacre in Norway. Cinato claimed he had been in contact with Breivik before his attacks on the Norwegian capital and his massacre of 77 teenagers and adults on the island of Utoya. He was described as Breivik's 'mentor' in the international press, after the Englishman's pseudonym was mentioned in the assassin's 1,500-page manifesto. Breivik said that in 2002 he attended a meeting to set up a Templar organisation in London, where he was assigned a "mentor" codenamed Richard (the Lionhearted).

Magistrate Francesco Depasquale today heard how Cinato, whose last known address was Marsaxlokk, publishes a blog under the pseudonym Lionheart. In April and May of 2012, three of his articles attacked English national Alan Derek Ayling, who in the past has denied allegations he is the financier of the English Defence League, allegedly met Cinato in England to discuss the UK's political situation. Ayling is also known by his blogging pseudonym Alan Lake, and is considered a central figure in organising international anti-Islamist contacts. In October 2011, Norwegian police formally investigated Lake to discover any potential ideological influence Lake may have had on mass murderer Anders Breivil. In January 2012, after the identity of "Alan Lake" came out as Alan Ayling, Ayling was suspended from his management post at a development bank in the City of London. Using the name Lionheart, Cinato published three articles titled 'Alan Lake - Food for thought'; 'Alan Lake - A profile', and 'A successful coup in Norway or a Marxist Dictatorship'. His writings alleged that the plaintiff was the mentor of Andres Breivik, and that he had stopped Ayling from becoming the leader of the English Defence League.

While the blogger never appeared in court, plaintiff Alan Derek Ayling took the witness stand and confirmed he had met 'the Lionheart' multiple time in the UK to discuss politics. The meetings included other people. However the rest of the allegations were fabrications and lies. He argued the articles were defamatory and libellous and had a serious negative effect on his life. Under oath, Ayling told the court the allegations destroyed his marriage and that he was forced to quit his job as a database manager at the European Bank for Resources and Development. "Wherever I travel I'm haunted by Lionheart's allegations," he told the court. On his part, Cinato never attended court and showed no interest in voicing his defence. The Court said there was no reason to doubt Ayling's version of events, and found Cinato guilty of publishing defamatory articles and ordered him to pay €5,000 in damages to Alan Derek Ayling. Lawyer Malcom Mifsud appeared on the plaintiff's behalf.
Malta Today

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Roma face mounting discrimination across Europe

27/1/2014- Dimitris Triantafyllou’s cellphone rings as he drinks Greek coffee at his home in this small, central town. A local student is on the line asking to talk about an incident on a school bus. A new driver is refusing to take more than 40 children home from a school for Roma, the traditionally marginalized ethnic community still often described as gypsies. As president of the local Roma community, Triantafyllou is used to dealing with such incidents. Earlier in the day, he tried to convince the national power company to send a technician to restore electricity to Roma neighborhoods after three days of outages. "The racism Roma face is not only personal but institutional," he said. "We’ve seen many similar attitudes from the local authorities over the past few months. But we’ve learned to live with the burden and fight for change.” Prejudice against Roma appears to have been on the rise since October, when police took custody of a blonde, white-skinned 5-year-old named Maria in Farsala — a small town just 24 miles away — because she didn’t resemble the dark-skinned family caring for her.

When the news hit international headlines, European media suggested she may have been the abducted child of an unknown German or Scandinavian couple that had traveled to Greece years ago — or the offspring of a British boy who disappeared in 1991 while on vacation with his family on the Aegean island of Kos. Neither was true. It turned out that the press had fed into an old stereotype of gypsies as child snatchers. DNA testing showed that Maria was the child of a Bulgarian Roma couple who gave the little girl away because they couldn't afford to raise her, and the story vanished from the news. Revelations about the bias did little to change perceptions about Roma in Sofades or elsewhere in Europe, however. Last year, Amnesty International called the approximately 12 million Roma in Europe “the largest and most disadvantaged minority” on the continent.

In Sofades, a town of 6,000 that’s evenly divided between Roma and “balamos” — what Roma call white Greeks — many Roma live in unheated, jury-rigged houses of asbestos, stone and zinc. Although they patronize local Greek-owned shops, they aren’t welcome in cafes and bars. “Every one of us has a similar story that shows our exclusion,” said Spyros Mpantis, a 27-year-old unemployed Roma who says he’s been denied coffee in the center of town. “Is this life?” Greece’s financial crisis has made matters worse. Many Roma families receive financial assistance for low-income households and having more than three children, an issue that’s bred resentment among others. “The Roma population has become so big that our weak local economy can’t support them,” said Mayor Babis Papadopoulos, who blames high unemployment rates and other problems on the increase in the local Roma population. However, many Roma can’t buy food without the help.

Roma market owner George Ramantanis says members of his community constantly ask him for free food. “Until they receive their pensions or welfare benefits every beginning of the month,” he said, “I get nothing.” In a country where the official unemployment rate remains more than 27 percent, Roma suffer from disproportionally high levels of joblessness. Some admit breaking the law in order to survive, by using extension power cables to steal electricity from their neighbors, for example. Others have reverted to their centuries-old occupation of tinkering: roaming the streets to find and sell scrap metal for a few euros. “If I can’t buy milk for my babies, aren’t I going to steal?” said 53-year-old Vassilis. He says he’s only partly unemployed because Greeks prefer to hire less expensive Albanians and Pakistanis who have flooded the rural Greek labor market in recent years. “Roma people here do not have food to eat,” he said. “There are no jobs anymore and the balamos look down on us with contempt.”

The rise of the xenophobic far-right Golden Dawn Party thanks to the financial crisis is complicating efforts to bring the Roma into mainstream society. Polls show it’s helping make Greek society become increasingly conservative. Schools are legally segregated despite a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights last year that the practice violates the European Convention for Human Rights. Christos Govaris, an education professor at the University of Thessaly who directs programs for Roma children, believes integration would be the best way to achieve progress. “The rise of Golden Dawn makes our effort to integrate the Roma community through education much more difficult,” he said. “Twelve years of going to school is a long period of time that could result in mutual acceptance.”

In Sofades’s segregated fourth primary school, where more than 500 Roma students are registered, teachers typically leave for home before the school day ends. When the Education Ministry attempted to integrate Roma children two years ago, parents organized protests and sit-ins. Some were later seen distributing Golden Dawn leaflets before integration was abandoned. However, Greece isn’t alone in mistreating Roma, says Eleni Tsetsekou, a consultant on Roma to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe. “There’s no difference in Roma lives in other European countries, or in how they’re confronted by the majority of people,” she said. “Negative stereotypes are always present and deeply rooted.” Romanian and Spanish schools also remain segregated between Roma and non-Roma children despite the European court’s decision. In France, police have dismantled Roma shantytowns and deported even minors, violating laws allowing for the free movement of EU citizens. In Hungary, local governments have turned off water supplies to Roma districts. In Slovakia, towns have erected concrete barriers to isolate Roma neighborhoods. In Bulgaria, the far-right political group Ataka openly blames Roma for the poverty-stricken Balkan country’s economic ills.

Back in Sofades, Roma leader Triantafyllou says the Greek authorities aren’t helping. “They want us to be lawful citizens, pay our taxes, enlist in the army,” he said, “But they don’t want us within their society. That’s selective equality.”
The Global Post.

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