Posts Tagged ‘media/press’

Racism and discrimination everyday practices in Denmark – ENAR

Monday, November 9th, 2009

By Michael de Laine, Copenhagen, 9th November 2009

Racism and discriminatory practices take place every day, says ENAR, the European Network Against Racism, in its 2008 Shadow Report, ‘Racism in Denmark’. Many academic surveys, reports from distinguished organisations and NGOs have documented the unequal treatment given minorities in Denmark.

In its statistics, the Danish government describes non-European communities in a particular manner, according to ENAR, the European Network Against Racism.

Discriminated groups vary in ethnicity, cultures and religions, but, in the last few years, an open and hostile atmosphere towards Muslim groups has become very visible in all spheres of life, the organisation says.

Racism and discriminatory practices take place every day, as evidenced by many academic surveys, reports from distinguished organisations and NGOs, which have documented beyond doubt the unequal treatment given to minorities.

However, the ENAR report states, the single most discriminated area is the labour market – employment opportunities, apprenticeships and the negative views of employers.

In another discriminating area, housing and accommodation, “minorities are often directed by housing societies towards places and quarters where the percentage of socially deprived Danes and various minority groups is already high,” ENAR states. “Having done that, the authorities then call those areas ‘ghettoes’.”

In education there is an important focus on the Danish language, while mother-tongue education for minority children is almost abolished. There are also efforts to spread minority children in as many schools as possible in the name of integration. “The Danish education system is thus becoming a tool in the hands of anti-minority political forces,” the anti-racism organisation says.

In the health sector, children of asylum-seeking families are suffering while interpreting facilities are non-existent for women and elderly sick patients.

The relationship between the police and minority youth deteriorated in 2008 due to the increasing use of racial profiling by the authorities in stop-and-search raids in the neighbourhood, ENAR says. Police arrogance has caused friction and stress. Although Danish society has been relatively peaceful until recently, racial violence and crime have accelerated steadily, causing deaths and shootings.

“Right-wing movements take advantage of the negative atmosphere and recruit new members for their cause,” the ENAR report states. “Harassment of Muslim women and Jewish students is a cause for alarm.”

When it comes to accessing goods and services in the private sector, discrimination in discos, bars and entertainment places is still very widespread and out of the control of authorities.

In public services, small minority children are forcefully removed from homes and taken to Danish foster parents – a big issue that minorities feel very strongly about, the organisation says in its report.

“The media are often hostile towards non-European minorities, especially towards Muslim communities,” ENAR says. “The republishing of the caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed in 2008, splashing headlines in terror suspect cases before the trial or conviction, giving the green light to anti-minority politicians and focusing excessively on the negative stories have created a very bad image of minorities. Media debates as usual focused on Islam, the headscarf, radicalisation, and terrorism by Muslims.”

According to ENAR’s shadow report 2008 on Denmark, such developments have a political and legal context. “In the absence of strong legal protective measures against racism and discrimination and the free reign for politicians to say what they like, minorities have great difficulty in attaining equal rights and opportunities,” ENAR states.

Talking to NGOs, it became clear to ENAR that, in recent years, civil society, which was very active until 2001, has lost hope and faith in a positive change.

“On the anti-discrimination front, the government refuses to officially acknowledge the existence of racism in Denmark,” ENAR says. The government’s action plans “are full of talk about diversity and mono-cultural integration without a concentrated effort to tackle racism and discrimination,” it adds. “The name of the newly established Board of Equal Treatment (which does not deal with racism or discrimination) is a good example. Most of the new laws concerning minorities are actually new restrictions on citizenship, family reunions, asylum and social rights.”

According to ENAR, Denmark has been repeatedly criticised by EU institutions and international organisations, but, due to the lack of sanctions, the government has dismissed all valid criticism.

Successful integration has been linked by the government to the end of third-country nationals entering Denmark. This policy has had the desired effects by reducing asylum and family reunions from Asia, Africa and the Middle East, especially Muslim countries.

“The whole burden of integration has been put on the shoulder of ethnic minorities who are asked to adopt the Danish way of living by discarding their own values and traditions,” ENAR states in the report.

The anti-racism organisation notes that there are few practical remedies against racism and racial profiling, but there is a great focus on anti-terrorism.

Danish anti-terrorism laws are stricter than EU laws, ENAR says, and some cases in 2008 proved that many people were arrested without any substantial proof.

“Such drastic measures have alienated and angered Muslim communities who find themselves targeted because of suspicions and actions of a very tiny number of Muslim individuals,” the organisation adds. “The result of these negative developments is social exclusion, increase in poverty, break up of trust and the ‘us’ versus ‘them’ divide.”

ENAR says it believes that this divide will widen if the Danish media, politicians and local authorities do not come to realise that ethnic and religious minorities are here to stay and that an intercultural society with equal rights and opportunities is the best guarantee for an inclusive society.

“2008 was the European Year for Intercultural Living,” the organisation says. “Minorities hope that the Danish media, politicians and authorities have learnt from this message to not only divert their attention from Danish values but to focus on universal values of respect, accept and understanding for all.”

Torture and the media’s role in exposing it

Friday, November 6th, 2009

By Michael de Laine, Copenhagen, 6th November 2009

Abu Ghraib, Bagram and Guantanamo Bay – three detention centres run by the US military in the past eight years, where prisoners have been tortured in the fight against terrorism.

The media has long played a role in uncovering the excesses of government and military intervention, and media coverage of torture, interrogation processes, special renditions and individual businesses’ involvement does not please the military, the authorities or the companies involved. Indeed, journalists are killed in some countries for trying to cover these topics.

The International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) held a journalists’ seminar today on ‘Preventing terrorism within the fight against terrorism’.

“There is nothing called ‘objective journalism’,” said Erling Borgen, a journalist who uncovered the Norwegian company Aker Kværner’s involvement until 2004 in supplying materials to Guantanamo Bay. “We all select what we want to say or who we want to speak to.”

Nevertheless, also in investigative reporting, journalists must aim for fair and balanced reports. There is no “nearly truth” or half-truth. The facts have to be right, relevant and essential. The people or companies exposed have the right to replay, even if they refuse to make use of that right.

One of the results of his film, ‘Et lite stykke Norge (A little piece of Norway)’, was a NOK 5 billion increase in the Norwegian government’s stake in Kværner.

Prisoner 345, Sami Al Haj, a cameraman for the Al Jazeera TV station, told the me how he spent six years in the Guantanamo Bay detention centre, undergoing torture, before he was released in 2008 without being charged. He has since returned to work for Al Jazeera, and has also co-founded the Guantanamo Justice Centre.

Tara McKelvey, contributing editor at Marie Claire magazine and a fellow of Johns Hopkins University’s International Reporting Project, spoke of her book, ‘Monstering: Inside America’s Policy on Secret Interrogations and Torture in the Terror War’ and her perceptions of the public’s response to reports of the torture.

IRCT secretary-general Brita Sydhoff said that no-one actually knows whether there is more or less torture today than a few years ago, but there is still a need for treatment of torture victims, while prosecuting the perpetrators is a difficult and time-consuming task.

In April 2004, the Abu Ghraib photographs set off an international scandal. Yet until this book, the full story behind that scandal has never been told. Tara McKelvey – the first US journalist to speak with female prisoners from Abu Ghraib – travelled to the Middle East and across the United States to seek out victims and perpetrators.

In her book, McKelvey tells how soldiers, acting in an atmosphere that encouraged abuse and sadism, were unleashed on a prison population of whom the vast majority, according to Army documents, were innocent citizens. She gained unprecedented access to soldiers, officers, administration officials, and suspected terrorists. She also provides an inside look at Justice Department theories of presidential power to show how the many abuses were licensed by the government.

Monstering is a gripping and important exposé that reaches well beyond the frame of the notorious photos to provide a vital examination of the under-investigated crimes of Abu Ghraib.