As a result of the contentious Dujail Trial, Iraq has gone ahead with two more hangings. This time, state television is not broadcasting the executions, one of which ended in an accidental decapitation.

Journalists were shown a silent video recording of the process which took place overnight.

In late December, Saddam Hussein’s execution was broadcast on state television; the video was also silent. It was later revealed that the former Iraqi President was taunted and insulted as he was hanged. The revelation came from a rogue video with audio recorded on a cellphone and leaked onto the internet.

Iraqi officials are saying that these hangings were carried out appropriately and that the video will not be made public. Keeping it private makes some sense, but it also negates the necessity of showing a silent video to journalists. If Iraq’s executioners and officials have really learnt their lesson after hanging Saddam Hussein, shouldn’t members of the media be able to verify that?

Once again, Iraq is showing to not be as transparent a society as is expected from a democracy. There is no free media in Iraq and the government expects its story to be broadcast and not challenged. This is precisely why the official who leaked the video of Saddam Hussein’s hanging was arrested.

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Living in Moscow

December 28, 2006

Russia has been in the news quite a bit lately. A common trend is to draw the parallel between Russia of today and the Soviet Union. For example is this weekend’s article in the Washington Post on the 15-year anniversary of the collapse of the Soviet Union.

On today’s Off the hour I spoke with Alexander Popov, who is a producer working in Moscow about his experience of politics while living in Russia’s capital and what he thought of the parallel. Listen below:

[odeo=http://odeo.com/audio/4629683/view]

A press conference on Lebanon’s political crisis was held last Wednesday by three Montreal groups.

To listen to what they had to say, press play below:

[odeo=http://odeo.com/audio/3998813/view]

In yesterday’s article entitled “Montreal: F.A.C.E. School Community Speaks Up,” I mentionned that William Paul, webmaster of www.ecolefaceschool.com recieved threats of legal action. Indirect threats of letters from CSDM lawyers were made, but William Paul was not directly contacted by any representative of the CSDM.

I regret the error — I had miscommunicated with the parties involved and in my attempt to hastily put the article together, made the regrettable error. I will be more prudent in the future. And I would like to apologize to the CSDM, for this mistake.

Human Rights Violations

Georgia’s Foreign Ministry has made a complaint with the UN High Commisioner for Human Rights.

The complaint has to do with Russia’s crackdown on illegal migrants of Georgian descent, which followed Georgia’s detention of four Russian diplomats last month. Russia’s response has been adequate in terms of foreign policy — the country has exercised restraing and not acted with military force (as, Israel did, this summer). Domestically, however, Russia has failed miserably exercising a policy of ethnic-based discrimination, going as far as asking schools for lists of Georgian students.

Press Freedom Index

Reporters Without Borders published its list of dangerous places to be a journalist. While North Korea has topped the list yet again, Russia does not have a favourable position either: the former super-power was 147 (out of 168 countries). The most recent example of the danger being the murder of Journalist Anna Politkovsaya.

It’s been a week of bad PR for Russia. And rightly so.

Rice in Russia

October 22, 2006

On Anna Politkovskaya

Condoleezza Rice has met with the family of Anna Politkovskaya and the editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta in Moscow. The move was meant to show support for the remains of the free press in Russia.

Politkovskaya is an investigative reporter who was gunned down at her appartment building two weeks ago. Fingers have been pointed at the government, as she has been active in Chechnya and obviously had unfavourable things to say about Russia’s handling of the conflict. However, it is hard to imagine the government conspiring to kill her, because her death has done her more harm than her reporting — the paper she writes for is not as influential, nor does she represent a mainstream trend.

In that sense, it is fair to say that the press is no longer free in Russia: if a reporter like Anna Politkovskaya has to settle for Novaya Gazeta (and not, Pravda, Moskovskiy Komsomolets or even the Nezavisimaya Gazeta), it means that other publications are being persuaded to publish a different kind of reporting. And her reporting severely differed from what was being written by other reporters on Chechnya.

One of the biggest failures of the Russian democracy under President Putin has been the inability to truly foster an independent press. The press itself is independent enough in terms of ownership, but what gets written is sometimes too close to the executive line.

On Georgia

In a slight change of town, the Secretary of State has commented the Russia-Georgia conflict by saying she hopes for a “de-escalation” and wishes that both sides have “cooler heads” over the issue. No longer is the finger being pointed directly at Russia: after all, the Secretary of State cannot criticize Russia for imposing sanctions on Georgia, if she is to ask Russia to do the same for North Korea.

North Korea

No announcements have been made vis-à-vis Russia’s position on the North Korea situation. This was the main reason for Condoleezza Rice’s visit to the Russian capital.