RADIO MASHAAL: Pakistan shuts down US-funded radio station

Islamabad – VIJAY SHAH via CPJ

Pakistani media authorities have ordered Radio Mashaal, a radio station funded by the US, to close operations on the nation’s soil, causing protests and condemnation among advocates for freedom of the press, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported on Friday. The shutdown affects Radio Mashaal‘s bureau in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad. The radio station broadcasts in the Pashto language, a relative of Persian, which is spoken in Pakistan’s northern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province and which is also a national language of neighbouring Afghanistan. The station is headquartered not in Pakistan, or indeed Asia, but in Prague, Czech Republic, with the Islamabad bureau being a satellite office.

 

Radio Mashaal is a Pakistani subsidiary of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), a former anti-Communist propaganda and news station currently sourcing funds from the US Congress, according to the CPJ.

Local news reports claimed that recommendations made by the country’s secret intelligence service, the Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, prompted the Interior Ministry to order the shutdown of the radio outlet. According to Radio Mashaal’s parent broadcaster, the ministry stated that the station’s programming were “found against the interests of Pakistan and are in line with [a] hostile intelligence agency’s agenda.” Relations between Pakistan and the US have been lukewarm in recent years. Reasons included alleged Pakistani top-level support of the Taliban fighting NATO forces in Afghanistan, the fact that Osama bin Laden, once America’s most wanted terrorist, was able to escape detection for many years in Pakistani territory, and only this year, US President Donald Trump threatened to end aid to Pakistan for not pulling its weight in the ‘war on terror’.

The Interior Ministry was also troubled by what it considered to be Radio Mashaal’s negative attitude towards Pakistan, including claiming that the country was a ‘failed state’ and a ‘hub of terrorism’ and that Pashtun Pakistanis were ‘dissatisfied’ with their nation. The station was also accused of factual distortion.

The CPJ roundly condemned the closing of Radio Mashaal in Pakistan in their article. The committee’s Asia programme coördinator, Steven Butler, said “The order to close Radio Mashaal’s office in Islamabad is a draconian move by Pakistani authorities and a direct threat to press freedom in the country,

‘Radio Mashaal is an important source of information in Pakistan and should be allowed to continue operating in the country without further harassment from the government.”

Meanwhile, Radio Mashaal’s parent company has also expressed dismay over the enforced closure, stating it was ‘extraordinarily concerned’ and is “urgently seeking more information about the Pakistani authorities’ intentions,” adding that the station is “an essential source of reliable, balanced information for our Pakistani audience.”

While the country’s constitution guarantees press freedoms in theory, the Pakistani government does clamp down on critical reporting or stories that could, in its eyes, cause harm to the country. There have been claims of violent attacks on journalists, even assassinations. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has ranked Pakistan 147 on the 2016 World Press Freedom Index.

SOURCES:

HEM Journalism Portal, HEM News Agency, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/halfeatenmind/lists/hem-journalism-portal

CPJ, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/pressfreedom

“Pakistan orders closure of US-funded Radio Mashaal office in Islamabad” – Committee to Protect Journalists (19 January 2018) https://cpj.org/2018/01/pakistan-orders-closure-of-us-funded-radio-mashaal.php

IMAGE CREDIT:

“Islamabad Capital Territory rentals in a bungalow, holiday lettings direct from the owners” – iha Holiday Ads https://www.iha.ie/islamabad-capital-territory-bungalow-rentals/2lwu/

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HIV ORPHANS: Beauty contest winner sparks controversy after meeting children wearing protective gloves

Johannesburg – VIJAY SHAH via CHRIS BAYNES and The Independent

A winner of the Miss South Africa beauty pageant has sparked controversy after visiting a home for children orphaned by HIV/AIDS while wearing protective gloves, the Independent newspaper of Britain reported today.

Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters visited a soup kitchen in the major city of Johannesburg to meet with the orphans. She was seen wearing gloves, which have led observers to accuse her of being racist. She was handing out hot meals to the orphans as part of the Winter Soup Drive charity event at the Ikageng community centre in Johannesburg, organised by the city’s Maslow Hotel. The Miss South Africa, aged 22 and of mixed heritage, however insisted the gloves were worn for hygienic reasons as she was working with food. On Twitter, Nel-Peters showed herself sitting down on steps with some of the Ikageng orphans, eating soup and bread rolls with them.

 

The picture shows Nel-Peters wearing what appears to be white latex surgical gloves as she eats a roll. It sparked a backlash from other Twitter users who claimed Nel-Peters was being racist or that she was afraid of being ‘contaminated’ by the children, many of whom had lost parents to HIV/AIDS or suffered from the virus themselves. South Africa has one of the world’s highest numbers of infected people. The 2007 UNAIDS report estimated that 5,700,000 South Africans had HIV/AIDS, or just under 12% of South Africa’s population of 48 million.

One Twitter user wrote: “I want to know why she would put on latex gloves to touch black children.” Another said: “I really can’t believe ‘our’ Miss SA is wearing latex so that she can touch these kids!” A third suggested she wore gloves “to protect herself from black kids” because she feared they would “contaminate her”. The backlash soon grew into a Twitter hashtag competition, #MissSAChallenge, which went viral this past Thursday, where users began posting pictures of themselves wearing white latex gloves, making fun of the beauty queen’s decision.

Some posted photos of themselves wearing gloves to type at a desk, make a drink, and read a book.

The Ikageng centre has spoken out against the challenge. Its programme director, Carol Dyanti, said All volunteers, including our staff members, wore gloves during the food preparation. It was mandatory.

“It was such successful day and I am sorry that the focus is now on the glovs (sic) rather than the positive impact it had.”

Nel-Peters also spoke out against the controversy, stating in the Independent story via an uploaded video on Twitter: “We were handing out food to young kids and that was the only intention with wearing the gloves.

“It was purely to be as hygienic as possible. I really feel like my intention were really misunderstood but I would like to apologise if I offended anyone.”

Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters, who was born in Sedgefield in the Western Cape province in 1995, is a model who was crowned Miss South Africa this year and will go on to represent the country at the Miss World and Miss Universe pageants this year. Latex gloves are often worn by people working in catering and hospitality, as well as in the medical field, for reasons of hygiene and safety.

SOURCES:

The Independent, Facebook, Facebook Inc. https://www.facebook.com/TheIndependentOnline/

“Miss South Africa sparks uproar by wearing gloves to meet orphans with HIV” – Chris Baynes, The Independent (8 July 2017) http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/miss-south-africa-wears-gloves-to-meet-hiv-orphans-uproar-demi-leigh-nel-peters-a7829581.html?cmpid=facebook-post

LUNCHTIME PUNISHMENT: Oregon schoolchild forced to eat behind screen for lateness

The parents of a six-year old American schoolchild are up in arms against the child’s school after teachers punished the boy for being late to lessons, by making him eat his lunch behind a cardboard screen while forced to sit on a separate table from other children.

Hunter Cmelo’s parents, from Grant’s Pass in Oregon, were running late when they managed to take the first-grader to Lincoln Elementary School, the local primary school in the town. Teachers there punished Hunter by seating him on an unoccupied bench with a folded piece of cardboard shielding him from the eyes of his schoolmates. A set of polystyrene cups with the letter ‘D’ – standing for detention – scrawled on one of them was also placed near Hunter as he sat down to eat.

(c) Facebook via Metro

Pictures of the incident were put up on Facebook by Hunter’s grandmother Laura Hoover, who commented in the British newspaper site of Metro “This is my grandson, Hunter. He’s a little first grader“.

His momma’s car sometimes doesn’t like to start right up. Sometimes he’s a couple of minutes late to school.

‘Yesterday, he was 1 minute late and this is what his momma discovered they do to punish him! They have done this to him 6 times for something that is out of his control! They make a mockery of him in front of the other students.”

The harsh punishment of being segregated from friends at lunchtime has caused considerable distress to Hunter, who was on one occasion taken home in tears by his mother, Nicole Garloff. Hunter’s father, Mark Cmelo, said to local television station KOIN6: “They are shaming him for something that’s not in his control.” Hunter’s parents are reported to be devastated at the treatment of their son by the school.

His mother said the punishment has left her son anxious about attending school, and that a few days ago, he began ‘flipping out’ because they were running late for the school journey. She said that she has experienced car troubles and suffers from the brittle bone condition osteoporosis, which can set her back in the mornings. “It causes a lot of pain and in the mornings it’s especially hard for me to get going,” she said, according to the Daily Mail newspaper.

Lincoln Elementary School have agreed to stop using the cardboard partition in light of the Cmelos’ complaint, but have not said if they will end the policy of separating late students at lunchtime and forcing them to eat alone. According to the Daily Mail, the school received hundreds of complaints and threats after the incident went viral on social media.

A spokesman for the school district said: “The parents’ concerns were politely discussed and, ultimately, the issues were resolved to the satisfaction of both parents and the school. All parties involved believe that an appropriate resolution has been reached.

Meanwhile, the school’s superintendent John Higgins, who received a barrage of threatening phone calls, told Newswatch 12 that the “protocol was communicated to parents via newsletter and is intended to provide the students with an above average level of tardiness, supervised additional learning time in a non-distracting setting,

‘It was never intended to isolate or stigmatize students.

Principal Missy Fitzsimmons reached out to Hunter’s parents and arranged a meeting this past Thursday to hear the parents’ concerns, including ceasing use of the cardboard partition. Fitzsimmons said: “We are pleased to report the meeting was productive,

‘The parents’ concerns were politely discussed and, ultimately, the issues were resolved to the satisfaction of both parents and the school. All parties involved believe that an appropriate resolution has been reached.”

The school has a roll call of 444 pupils and forms part of the Grant’s Pass School District 7 administration in the Oregon town.

SOURCES:
Facebook, Facebook Inc. https://www.facebook.com/
“Boy, 6, forced to eat behind a screen because his parents dropped him off late” – Richard Hartley-Parkinson, Metro/Associated Newspapers Limited (1 March 2015) http://metro.co.uk/2015/03/01/boy-6-forced-to-eat-behind-a-screen-because-his-parents-dropped-him-off-late-5084049/?ito=facebook
“Outrage as six-year-old boy is forced to eat lunch alone behind a screen after his parents dropped him off late to school” –  Lydia Warren, Mail Online – News/Associated Newspapers Ltd (27 February 2015) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2972459/Outrage-six-year-old-boy-forced-eat-lunch-screen-parents-dropped-late-school.html
“About Lincoln Elementary – Mission Statement” – Lincoln Elementary School, Grant’s Pass School District No. 7 http://www.grantspass.k12.or.us/education/components/scrapbook/default.php?sectiondetailid=22344&
IMAGE CREDIT:
“Boy, 6, forced to eat behind a screen because his parents dropped him off late” – Richard Hartley-Parkinson, Metro/Associated Newspapers Limited (1 March 2015) http://metro.co.uk/2015/03/01/boy-6-forced-to-eat-behind-a-screen-because-his-parents-dropped-him-off-late-5084049/?ito=facebook