World Press Freedom Day 2021

By External Source
Apr 30 2021 (IPS-Partners)

WORLD PRESS FREEDOM DAY: a reminder to governments of their commitment to press freedom. This year’s World Press Freedom Day theme: “Information as a Public Good.”

It serves as a call to affirm the importance of cherishing information as a public good.

It is vital to have access to reliable information – especially in an era of misinformation.

Today, journalism is restricted in well over two thirds of the globe.

The 2021 World Press Freedom Index: journalism is “totally blocked or seriously impeded” in 73 nations.

“The pandemic has been used as grounds to block journalists’ access to information sources, and reporting in the field,” Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Secretary-General Christophe Deloire

According to RSF, authoritarian regimes have used the pandemic to “perfect their methods of totalitarian control of information.”

‘Dictatorial democracies’ have used coronavirus as a pretext for imposing especially repressive legislation combining propaganda with suppression of dissent.

In Egypt, the government banned publication of non-government pandemic figures and arrested people for circulating figures larger than the official numbers.

In Zimbabwe, an investigative reporter was arrested after exposing a scandal related to the procurement of COVID- 19 supplies.

Tanzania, the former president imposed an information blackout on the pandemic before he died in March 2021. Even in Norway, journalists have faced difficulty accessing pandemic-related government information.

Thailand, the Philippines, Cambodia and Indonesia adopted extremely draconian laws in the spring of 2020 criminalizing any criticism of the government’s actions.

Press freedom in Myanmar has also become increasingly strained since the military deposed its democratically elected government in February.

Despite Africa being the most violent continent for journalists, but several countries showed significant improvements in press freedom, according to RSF.

Europe and the Americas are the most favorable regions for press freedom, according to RSF.


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Human Rights Watch: A Threshold Crossed

Israeli authorities are committing the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution, Human Rights Watch said in a report released April 27. The finding is based on an overarching Israeli government policy to maintain the domination by Jewish Israelis over Palestinians and grave abuses committed against Palestinians living in the occupied territory, including East Jerusalem. Credit: Human Rights Watch (HRW)

By Mouin Rabbani
THE HAGUE, Netherlands, Apr 30 2021 – Human Rights Watch’s 27 April report, A Threshold Crossed: Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution, could also have been entitled Better Late Than Never.

The evidence and analysis deployed in this 217-page report and its 867 footnotes, voluminous and sound as it is, has been at HRW’s disposal for years. Similarly, its conclusions have been common currency in the region, and often beyond, since before HRW was founded. It is thus not Israel, but rather HRW that has crossed a threshold.

The more pertinent question is why HRW chose this moment to formally recognize reality. HRW is the industry leader in its field. As an establishment institution that places a premium on access to the corridors of power, it generally avoids open conflict with US foreign policy.

And compared to its reporting on other states in the MENA region, it has until recently been extremely reticent about explicitly condemning Israeli conduct or unambiguously charging it with criminal conduct – unequivocal HRW denunciations have in fact traditionally been directed at the Palestinians and other Arabs rather than Israel.

Additionally, key HRW leaders such as founding Chairman Robert Bernstein and President-for-Life Ken Roth are known for their pro-Israel sympathies. Bernstein for example was a shameless apologist for Israel who never encountered an Israeli violation he wouldn’t justify.

It is common knowledge within the human rights community that HRW staff hold a rather different view of Israel and its conduct, and have been agitating for many years for their organization to hold Israel to the same standards it applies to others in the region.

When, particularly during the past year, Israeli human rights organizations, most notably B’Tselem, published major reports characterizing Israel as an apartheid regime, HRW’s continued silence on the matter became politically untenable and somewhat of an embarrassment.

As in other aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian relationship, the Americans follow the lead of their Israeli counterparts and almost never get ahead of them.

Similarly, HRW management has always been adept at divining the political winds, and it may be the case that it assessed the direction of the ongoing International Criminal Court (ICC) deliberations on Palestine, and saw benefit in getting on the right side of history and positioning itself to claim some of the credit.

A report by the world’s most prominent human rights organization accusing Israel of apartheid and calling for it to face real consequences for its policies is by definition a significant development. And precisely because of HRW’s history, and because it is a renowned US organization, this report acquires added importance.

For example, the campaign by Israel and its apologists to proscribe advocacy for Palestinian rights and delegitimize findings that Israel is an institutionally racist state has I suspect suffered a significant blow.

Whenever Israel is exposed as a racist state or compulsive violator of Palestinian rights it seeks to render such judgements irrelevant and delegitimize its critics – including, it should be noted, Jewish ones – with specious charges of anti-Semitism. It’s a well-worn playbook often augmented with other dirty tricks and propaganda such as denouncing critics as terrorists and fellow travellers. But the anti-Semitism canard remains the core of its response.

Similarly, authoritative reports by prominent Israeli and US organizations make it more difficult for Western media and officialdom to continue avoiding serious discussion of Palestinian rights and Israeli practices, and may empower those within such institutions seeking to promote greater debate about Israeli-Palestinian issues. Such reports can also serve as a valuable educational resource and assist in advocacy efforts.

The more interesting question is what if any consequences A Threshold Crossed and similar publications may have for Israel’s continued impunity in its dealings with the Palestinian people.

Apartheid is not a murder committed by a soldier who can theoretically be placed on trial, or a war crime commissioned by a commanding officer or government minister who can theoretically be held to account.

It is, rather, the intentional, consciously designed character of a state, and as such implicates not only the state itself but every participating leader, official, and bureaucrat. It will be interesting to see, for example, if such reports have an impact on the current deliberations within the ICC prosecutor’s office about the situation in Palestine.

It will be similarly interesting to see if such reports register within the United Nations system. In 2017, Secretary General Antonio Gutteres scandalously buckled to US and Israeli pressure, and disassociated the UN from, and tried to suppress, a report commissioned by UN ESCWA on this very subject.

This led to the resignation of ESCWA’s highly respected Executive Secretary, Rima Khalaf. Given that his spokesperson Stephane Dujarric recently refused to acknowledge the Armenian genocide on the spurious grounds that it transpired prior to the UN’s establishment (perhaps it is his view that the Nazi Holocaust commemorated by the UN this January was perpetrated during the 1970s), I am not particularly optimistic.


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Internet Restrictions Harm the Press & Public Alike

Afghanistan marked World Press Freedom Day with speeches and the recognition of journalists for their work in covering key national and political issues. Credit: UNAMA/Fardin Waezi

By Michael De Dora
WASHINGTON, Apr 30 2021 – When Myanmar’s military seized power from the elected government in February, one of its first actions was to further squeeze the already restricted free flow of information in the country. It obstructed news stations, temporarily shuttered phone and internet access, and blocked social media platforms.

Since then, things have only worsened, with dozens of journalists behind bars, news organizations charged with crimes, and military officials stating the shutdown will not be lifted anytime soon.

The result? At a time when it’s been desperately needed, independent information has been impossible to either publish or access. As the country experienced a rapid, unexpected shift in power, the majority of its citizens—and by consequence the world—have been left in the dark about the details.

The internet shutdown in Myanmar should be an example of what a government should never do. And yet is an example of what governments are doing—with disturbing frequency around the world.

All told, there have been more than 500 internet shutdowns across dozens of countries over the last three years.

As the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has documented, these shutdowns have serious consequences for press freedom. They leave journalists struggling to do their job effectively. Turning off or limiting access to the internet means that media workers are unable to contact sources, fact check data, file stories, or publish news to the online platforms they depend on for dispersal.

Internet shutdowns also leave the public deprived of the ability to access reliable information on what is happening in their community and their country—or even to phone their neighbor. If the press can’t publish, the public can’t read. It’s that simple.

And these shutdowns are not limited to autocraties or dictatorships. They’re happening in democracies, too.

Consider: in August 2019, millions of people living in Jammu and Kashmir awoke as news broke that the Indian government was planning to revoke a constitutional provision that granted the contested region’s governing autonomy and change it from a state to a union territory, essentially bringing it under federal control.

Except they couldn’t call their neighbors or read the news, because the Indian government had imposed an internet shutdown and communications blackout. This blackout extended well into 2020.

The situations in Jammu and Kashmir, and now Myanmar, are the tip of a largely unnoticed iceberg. In Uganda, the government suspended internet access during its January 2021 elections. In Belarus, authorities blocked local news websites amid protests in September 2020. In Ethiopia, also in response to protests, officials shut down the internet across the country (on the same day, police raided a news organization and detained journalists). In Iran, the government cut internet access for at least several days after protests broke out. In Indonesia, in response to civil unrest, authorities temporarily blocked the internet.

Why do governments engage in such behavior? For many reasons, but chief among them: to protect their power.

It is no coincidence that shutdowns are more likely to happen during times of conflict or unrest, or during an election period. When governments feel their power threatened, those in charge naturally rush to protect it. And the perception throughout history is that keeping a firm grip on what citizens can hear and see will aid authorities in maintaining control.

That explains why, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, government attempts to shutter internet access became an acute problem. Governments, particularly authoritarian regimes, sought to control the narrative about the scale of the outbreak or the quality of its response.

Unfortunately when paired with a public health crisis, internet shutdowns can have deadly consequences—keeping from people the information they need to keep themselves and their families safe.

The widespread impact and apparent uptick in internet shutdowns has forced news outlets and journalists to get creative in order to continue to perform their duties.

It’s also forced civil society to become more proactive. Organizations are joining together to urge governments to keep the internet on ahead of elections and crises, and providing advice and assistance to journalists operating in suffocating environments.

Governments committed to defending human rights and democracy must now follow suit.

These shutdowns violate foundational rights protected by both state constitutions and international treaties. Freedom of religion, belief, opinion, and expression depend on the ability to read, publish, and exchange information and ideas.

But they’re also counter-productive. In times of unrest and upheaval, it may appear that keeping the masses in the dark is an agent of stabilization. In reality it’s the opposite. It shows people that those in charge consider their power so weak that it cannot withstand discussion or scrutiny. And it puts on display for the world a government’s true colors—isolating it while also creating new reasons for the global community to apply pressure.

Internet shutdowns don’t stabilize societies. They crack open the facade of a government’s authority. If governments are looking to secure their countries in times of trouble, turning the lights off is not the answer. Instead, they should ensure the free flow of information. There’s no more stable foundation for a country than trust in government, and one way to achieve that is by protecting human rights for all.


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Online Violence: Weaponization of Deeply Rooted Misogyny, Sexism & Abuse of Power

By Sania Farooqui
NEW DELHI, India, Apr 30 2021 – Every time a woman journalist receives threats of physical and sexual violence, cyber attacks and surveillence, doxxing, public humiliation, damage to her professional & personal credibility, the driving forces behind these intents are deeply rooted misogyny, sexism and abuse of power.

These online offenses are often organized, coordinated or orchestrated, which could include State-sponsored ‘sock puppet networks’, acts of patriotic trolling, networked gaslighting or involves mobs who seed hate campaigns.

According to a report published by The International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) and UNESCO, vicious online violence seeks to silence women journalists and discredit their reporting has become a growing problem. “Because of their race, sexual orientation and religion, some women face even more frequent and vitriolic attacks. Online violence against women journalists are often linked to disinformation and political extremism, designed to smear their personal and professional reputations,” the report says.

Saudi Arabia: ‘Toughest & Most Dangerous for Journalists’

Reem Abdellatif

Reem Abdellatif, a prominent Egyptian-American journalist now based in the Netherlands left the Middle East due to the challenges and abuse she faced while working as a journalist in Saudi Arabia. Speaking to me Reem says, “I worked with Saudi State TV, which controls the narrative in the Kingdom and the Middle East. I was constantly pressured into glamorizing the Kingdom’s non-existent tourism sector, economy, and investment scene. I was working in close proximity to the Kingdom’s ruling elite, and when I tried covering and flagging festering core issues, such as women and human rights, poor tourism infrastructure, diversity, equality, inclusion in the workplace, bullying and harassment, for them that is where I went wrong and became a threat.

“Women journalists face difficulties in this region because we call for accountability. Authoritarian regimes fear sovereign women, especially survivors who openly discuss their lived experiences because we are resilient and people can relate to us,” Reem says.

According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in its 2021 World Press Freedom Index, Middle East’s most authoritarian countries – Saudi Arabia (170th), Egypt (166th) and Syria (173rd) – have taken advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic to reinforce their methods for gagging the media and reaffirm their monopoly on news and information.

The report also mentions how authorities continue to use surveillance to keep an eye on Saudi journalists, even when they are abroad, as Jamal Khashoggi’s murder in Istanbul in October 2018 illustrated. “In this region, still the toughest and most dangerous for journalists, the pandemic has exacerbated the problems that have long plagued the press, which was already in its death throes,” the report states.

“I have faced gendered attacks and systematic online trolling because I spoke up against sexual abuse, harassment and government repression. I have received death threats, and the trolls have used profanity to intimidate me, Twitter has become their playground. There is no room to agree or disagree in the media scene in MENA and the Gulf region, and women journalists who are unaffiliated with the state have no place in the Middle East, sadly.

“I left the Middle East in March 2020 to live a dignified life, where I could speak openly and freely about my experiences as a woman and help young girls and survivors of abuse to reclaim the narrative,” says Reem.

Return of “Red-tagging” in Philippines

Meanwhile in the Philippines, which ranks 138 in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index, the government continues to develop several ways to pressure journalists critical of the summary methods adopted by “Punisher” Rodrigo Duterte and his “war on drugs”. The Persecution of the media has been accompanied by online harassment campaigns orchestrated by pro-Duterte troll armies, which also launched cyber-attacks on alternative news websites, including the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines.

“Red-tagging” also returned in force in 2020 in the Philippines and one such victim was Lady Ann Salen, co-founder of the alternative media network Altermidya and editor of the Manila Today news site, who was arrested on firearms charges. The local police claimed they found 45 pistols and four grenades during the search.

“The police clearly planted the evidence to incriminate ‘Icy’ Salem in an utterly shameless manner,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk.

Lady Ann Salem

Women journalists work under military surveillance in this country, says Lady Ann Salen. “Online publications are hacked if they criticise the government, journalists get arrested, have their equipment confiscated, they receive death threats, hate-trolling and are locked out of their Facebook accounts,” Lady Ann says.

“My arrest on planted evidence and trumped up charges came only 9 days after the nationally televised red-tagging at the Senate hearing.

“It was December 10th, 2020, around two am, when the condo building’s security guard knocked on my door, police barged in with SWAT with their long firearms and full battle gear – around 20 of them, they made me and my companion face the wall, tied our hands behind our backs and made us neel on the floor for an hour. We were not allowed to make any calls to our lawyer or family members.”

Detained for almost 12 hours, Lady Ann said the whole search was conducted inside her “bedroom” and not any other part of the condo. “The police found a grenade wedged in the small mesh pocket in my everyday bag, gun amongst my laptop and hard drives, as well as from under my pillow. They found guns inside bags that did not belong to us. We were detained in four facilities in two months and three weeks of incarceration.”

Red-tagging for a long time has been a prelude to human rights violations, and a way to condition the public’s mind that if there were irregularities in the arrest or killing of somebody red-tagged, those people had it coming or even deserved it. In June 2016, when Rodrigo Duterte was sworn in as president, he had said, “Just because you’re a journalist, you are not exempted from assasination if you’re a son of a bitch. Freedom of expression cannot help you if you have done something wrong.”

“Despite these attacks and threats, women journalists in the country continue to rise, resist pressures, defend their ranks and defend press freedom in the country. We must continue to serve the people with journalism and our work is best exercised when it can contribute to just and meaningful changes in the lives of the people in this country – because a lot still needs to change,” says Lady Ann.

Iran: Polarized Political Sphere & Strict State Red Lines

Iran’s media freedom rank is 174 out of the 180 countries in the latest press freedom index of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2021.

The RSF report says Iran is still one of the world’s most repressive countries for journalists subjecting news and information to relentless control and at least 860 journalists and citizen journalists have been persecuted, arrested, imprisoned and in some cases executed since the 1979 revolution.

The report mentions the Iranian authorities waged their fight against the freedom to inform beyond the country’s borders, putting a great deal of pressure on Iranian journalists working for international media outlets.

Negar Mortazavi

One such journalist is Negar Mortazavi, who has been living in the United States for almost two decades, but was forced into exile from Iran in 2009, during the presidential election and the green movement. She currently has an open case against her, and says “it is a big risk” returning back to the country.

“As an Iranian-American journalist and analyst, I have been covering both the human rights abuses of the Iranian government, as well as the negative impact of US sanctions and the dangers of military escalation between the two countries. I have been a vocal critic of the Trump administration’s policies towards Iran, as well as a critic of Iran’s repression against its own citizens. I have been a target of massive online abuse and harassment from various state-sponsored entities, both by the Islamic Republic, the United States government, as well as Saudi Arabian and Israeli online operations.

“They constantly try to discredit my work, post death and rape threats on a regular basis, incite others to attack me, they do everything they can to intimidate and silence me,” says Negar.

In 2019, Negar used her Twitter handle to draw attention to a series of inflammatory tweets that were trying to smear her work along with other American journalists and analysts on Twitter. Negar exposed the Iran Disinformation Project, a state department- funded initiative that claimed to “bring to light disinformation emanating from the Islamic Republic of Iran via official rhetoric, state propaganda outlets, social media manipulation and more.”

“In response to the complaints, the US State Department suspended the initiative’s funding, but some other projects and cyber armies still continue to smear journalists and analysts who are critical of US policies towards Iran. They specifically target women with a sexist and misogynistic discourse, to discourage us from participating in public debates.

“It is very challenging to cover Iran from a distance, and to cover US foreign policy towards the region in general. There are many powerful players in the Middle East and in Washington DC who do not like nuance, objective reporting and analysis about the region,” says Negar.

Violations of journalists’ rights in countries like Iran, which often arrest journalists on fabricated charges and subject them through unfair trials, long sentences, without proper legal support and medical attention while in prison, often have a strong gender element and a common thread to the abuse that is directed at women journalists.

“In traditional societies with strict state red lines, women journalists are always the top targets because the perception is, it is easier to intimidate and silence women. I know of so many female colleagues who have left social media temporarily or permanently because of the abuse. It is important for women in these times, to be bold, be brave, break these barriers, create alliances and find partners, to speak up and push against abuse and intimidation,” says Negar.

Sania Farooqui is a journalist and filmmaker based out of New Delhi. She hosts a weekly online show called The Sania Farooqui Show where Muslim women from around the world are invited to share their views.


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The Day the UN Buried its Report on Apartheid in Israel

Credit: The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 30 2021 – When the UN’s Beirut-based Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), released a landmark 2017 report on “apartheid” in Israel, the United Nations disassociated itself with the study and left it to die— unceremoniously and unsung.

According to a March 2017 report in Foreign Policy Journal, both the Israeli and the Trump administrations put “enormous pressure on UN Secretary-General António Guterres to withdraw the report”.

But the head of the ESCWA, Rima Khalaf, refused to withdraw it and resigned from her UN position in protest. Later, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced he will award Khalaf the Palestine Medal of the Highest Honor for her “courage and support” for the Palestinian people.

And now, more than four years later, the apartheid policies of Israel have come back to haunt the United Nations with the release, on April 27, of a detailed report which says Israel’s abusive apartheid policies towards Palestinians constitute “crimes against humanity.”

Authored by Human Rights Watch (HRW), a widely known international human rights organizations, the 213-page report, “A Threshold Crossed: Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution,” singles out “the overarching Israeli government policy to maintain the domination by Jewish Israelis over Palestinians and grave abuses committed against Palestinians living in the occupied territory, including East Jerusalem.”

Originally coined in relation to South Africa, “apartheid” today is a universal legal term, says HRW, pointing out that the prohibition against particularly severe institutional discrimination and oppression or apartheid constitutes a core principle of international law.

But whether the new report will have any impact on the UN is doubtful.

Asked whether the UN should re-visit its own 2017 report on Israel and apartheid, UN spokesperson Farhan Haq told reporters April 27: “Well, again, without characterizing it one way or another, we have been getting the various facts out about the situation on the ground, including in the report, by the way, that you mentioned, which, I believe, the facts of the report were released, and we’ll continue to do that. Ultimately, it’s important to have a solid base of information about what’s happening, and that’s what we try to provide.”

Dr Richard Falk, professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University, who co-authored the 2017 UN report, told IPS the narrative of the apartheid discourse (extends) from the original smears at the UN to the B’Tselem Report, and now the HRW Report.

The Israeli Basic Law of 2018, which proclaimed Israel as an apartheid state without using the word, he said.

“The one large issue in which the critical discourse still lags behind what we argued in 2017 is the insistence that Israeli apartheid is best conceptualized by reference to the Palestinian people rather than land

“We believed this is an essential element because Israeli apartheid unlike South African apartheid created a victimized Palestinian diaspora by way of ethnic cleansing, and still shout the slogan ‘less Arabs, more land,’ said Dr Falk, who served a six-year term as the UN Special Rapporteur on “the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967.”

Palestinian refugees. Credit: UNRWA

Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, said “prominent voices have warned for years that apartheid lurks just around the corner if the trajectory of Israel’s rule over Palestinians does not change.”

“This detailed study shows that Israeli authorities have already turned that corner and today are committing the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution,” he added.

Dr. Ramzy Baroud, a journalist and Editor of The Palestine Chronicle, told IPS the HRW report was indeed historic, though overdue. “As pointed out by an equally earth-shattering UN report in March 2017, Israel is already an apartheid state”.

“In fact, we can take this further and claim that a country that is essentially founded on the racial supremacy of one group and racial discrimination against another, is, per academic definition at least, an apartheid state”, he argued.

What the HRW report has done is providing more than an intellectual argument regarding Israel’s apartheid status, but a legal one, he added.

“This is crucial, because Palestinians and the supporters of their struggle everywhere can now push for legally indicting Israel for its ongoing crime of apartheid, which should be added to the imminent International Criminal Court investigation of crimes committed in occupied Palestine.”

Even though the UN report in 2017 was pulled out under US pressure, Dr Baroud said, the legal arguments it contained remain valid.

Since then, two equally important voices were added to strengthening the argument of Israeli apartheid, a decisive and comprehensive report by the prominent Israeli rights group B’tselem in January and the just-released HRW’s report.

Judging by the evolution of the language considering Israel’s systematic racism and apartheid in Palestine, it is now a matter of time before the label, that of apartheid, becomes synonymous with Israel, as at one point in the past became synonymous with South Africa, before apartheid was dismantled, he noted.

“Despite its relentless efforts at winning the legitimacy war and launching smear campaigns against anyone who dares to criticize it, Israel is losing, not only the moral war, but the legal battle as well.”

This is good news for anyone who supports justice in Palestine, said Dr Baroud, a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA), Istanbul Zaim University, and at the Johannesburg-based Afro-Middle East Center (AMEC).

In its report, Human Rights Watch found that the elements of the crimes come together in the occupied territory, as part of a single Israeli government policy.

“That policy is to maintain the domination by Jewish Israelis over Palestinians across Israel and the occupied territory. It is coupled in the occupied territory with systematic oppression and inhumane acts against Palestinians living there”.

Drawing on years of human rights documentation, case studies, and a review of government planning documents, statements by officials, and other sources, HRW compared policies and practices toward Palestinians in the occupied territory and Israel with those concerning Jewish Israelis living in the same areas.

It also wrote to the Israeli government in July 2020, soliciting its perspectives on these issues, but received no response.

Across Israel and the occupied territory, Israeli authorities have sought to maximize the land available for Jewish communities and to concentrate most Palestinians in dense population centers, HRW said.

The authorities have adopted policies to mitigate what they have openly described as a “demographic threat” from Palestinians.

In Jerusalem, for example, the government’s plan for the municipality, including both the west and occupied east parts of the city, sets the goal of “maintaining a solid Jewish majority in the city” and even specifies the demographic ratios it hopes to maintain.

To maintain domination, Israeli authorities systematically discriminate against Palestinians. The institutional discrimination that Palestinian citizens of Israel face includes laws that allow hundreds of small Jewish towns to effectively exclude Palestinians and budgets that allocate only a fraction of resources to Palestinian schools as compared to those that serve Jewish Israeli children.

In the occupied territory, the severity of the repression, including the imposition of draconian military rule on Palestinians while affording Jewish Israelis living in a segregated manner in the same territory their full rights under Israel’s rights-respecting civil law, amounts to the systematic oppression required for apartheid.

Ambassador Gilad Erdan, Israel’s envoy to the US, dismissed the report as bordering on anti-Semitism. “When the authors of the report cynically and falsely use the term apartheid, they nullify the legal and social status of millions of Israeli citizens, including Arab citizens, who are an integral part of the state of Israel,” he said.

*Thalif Deen, Senior Editor at the UN Bureau of Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency, is the author of a newly-released book on the United Nations titled “No Comment and Don’t Quote Me on That” available on Amazon. The link to Amazon via the author’s website follows:


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HAMBURG, Germany, April 29, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — We are advised by GSB GOLD STANDARD BANKING CORPORATION AG that journalists and other readers should disregard the news release, "GSB Group doubts in gold reserves of Karatbars and the V999 Coin as well as the existence of the Osint Group" issued April 28, 2021, over GlobeNewswire.

FXCM Group Reports Monthly Execution Data

LONDON and SYDNEY, Australia and JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, April 29, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — FXCM Group, LLC (“FXCM Group” or "FXCM"), a leading international provider of online foreign exchange trading, CFD trading and related services, today released execution data for March 2021. To view execution data including historical spreads, execution speeds and historical price improvement data click here:–fxcm/execution–transparency/.

March 2021 All Instruments Highlights:*

  • 62.7% of orders executed at price1
  • 24.6% of orders executed with positive slippage2
  • 12.7% of orders executed with negative slippage3
  • Average execution speed 30 milliseconds4

Highlighted Instruments March 2021:

Instrument Active Trader
Active Trader
At Price
XAU/USD 0.4 0.4 0.4 50.7 % 34.5 % 14.8 %
SPX500 0.4 0.4 0.4 53.5 % 27.6 % 18.9 %
NAS100 1.1 1.1 1.0 41.5 % 36.9 % 21.6 %
EUR/USD 0.1 0.4 0.2 71.4 % 19.7 % 8.9 %
GBP/USD 0.4 1.0 0.5 70.2 % 20.0 % 9.8 %
AUD/USD 0.2 0.5 0.2 73.8 % 18.3 % 7.9 %

For more information and to open a live account, traders can contact an FXCM specialist 24 hours a day, 5 days a week.

*These highlights come from orders that executed through FXCM Group from 1 March 2021, to 31 March 2021. Data excludes certain types of non–direct clients.

1Percentage of executed client trades# in March 2021, which were executed at the price clients requested.
2Percentage of executed client trades# in March 2021, which were executed at a more favorable price than the price clients requested.
3Percentage of executed client trades# in March 2021, which were executed at a less favorable price than the price clients requested.
4This defines the amount of time between when we receive the order until execution. This excludes internet latency and post trade booking.
5This data is compiled forex and CFD trading data from FXCM's Active Traders for 1 March 2021, to 31 March 2021. The data reflects average spreads made available to FXCM clients during all trading hours.
6This data is compiled forex and CFD trading data from FXCM's Active Traders for 1 March 2021, to 31 March 2021. The data reflects the spread at which trades were executed by FXCM clients during all trading hours.
#Client trades here cover stop, limit, "at market", and entry orders. Certain non–direct clients are excluded from the data. Limit and limit entry orders would only execute at the requested price or better and cannot receive negative slippage. Price improvements are subject to available liquidity.

About FXCM:
FXCM is a leading provider of online foreign exchange (FX) trading, CFD trading, and related services. Founded in 1999, the company's mission is to provide global traders with access to the world's largest and most liquid market by offering innovative trading tools, hiring excellent trading educators, meeting strict financial standards and striving for the best online trading experience in the market. Clients have the advantage of mobile trading, one–click order execution and trading from real–time charts. In addition, FXCM offers educational courses on FX trading and provides trading tools, proprietary data and premium resources. FXCM Pro provides retail brokers, small hedge funds and emerging market banks access to wholesale execution and liquidity, while providing high and medium frequency funds access to prime brokerage services via FXCM Prime. FXCM is a Leucadia Company.

Forex Capital Markets Limited: FCA registration number 217689 (

CFDs are complex instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage.

76.31% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider.

You should consider whether you understand how CFDs work and whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money.

FXCM EU LTD: CySEC license number 392/20 (

CFDs are complex instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage.

Between 74–89% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs.

You should consider whether you understand how CFDs work and whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money.

FXCM Australia Pty. Limited: AFSL 309763. Losses can exceed your deposited funds. The products may not be suitable for all investors. Please ensure that you fully understand the risks involved. If you decide to trade products offered by FXCM AU, you must read and understand the Financial Services Guide, Product Disclosure Statement, and Terms of Business on

FXCM South Africa (PTY) Ltd: FSP No 46534 ( Our service includes products that are traded on margin and carry a risk of losses in excess of your deposited funds. The products may not be suitable for all investors. Please ensure that you fully understand the risks involved.

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A new collaboration between SNOMED International and ICH promotes seamless data exchange in support of public health

London, United Kingdom & Geneva, Switzerland, April 29, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — SNOMED International and the International Council for Harmonisation of Technical Requirements for Pharmaceuticals for Human Use (ICH) are announcing the release of important new maps between global medical terminologies SNOMED CT and MedDRA. This collaborative effort is the first deliverable of a new agreement entered into between SNOMED International and ICH.

ICH is an international non–profit organisation which brings together regulatory authorities and pharmaceutical industry from across the globe to discuss scientific and technical aspects of pharmaceuticals and to develop ICH guidelines. Owned by ICH, MedDRA, the Medical Dictionary for Regulatory Activities, is a rich and highly specific standardised medical terminology developed by ICH to facilitate sharing of regulatory information internationally for medical products used by humans and is used for registration, documentation and safety monitoring of medical products both before and after a product has been authorised for use. SNOMED International is the not–for–profit organization that owns and maintains SNOMED CT, the world's most comprehensive clinical terminology with over 350,000 concepts ranging across diagnosis, signs and symptoms and tens of thousands of surgical, therapeutic and diagnostic procedures.

This joint effort has produced two independent maps (MedDRA to SNOMED CT and SNOMED CT to MedDRA) which have been derived from frequently used and key pharmacovigilance MedDRA terms identified from the European Medicines Agency and the UK's Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency. In addition, a set of COVID–19 related terms are also included in the first production release of the maps to capture important aspects of the pandemic.

The maps are intended to facilitate the exchange of data between regulatory databases (which use MedDRA) and healthcare databases/electronic health records (which use SNOMED CT). In one use case, key pharmacovigilance concepts coded in SNOMED CT in an electronic health record (EHR) could be converted to MedDRA for the purpose of adverse event reporting to regulatory authorities or for the purposes of epidemiological research. In the opposite direction, these same key terms coded in MedDRA representing adverse events, warnings, and other regulatory information could be converted into SNOMED CT so that the information is available in the patient's record to aid in clinical decision–making.

The two maps were created as part of a project involving SNOMED International and ICH entitled WEB–RADR 2. Funded by the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), a large–scale public–private partnership between the EU and the pharmaceutical industry association, EFPIA, IMI aims to boost biopharmaceutical innovation in Europe and to speed up the development of better and safer medicines for patients. With the creation of the maps from the WEB–RADR 2 project, both SNOMED International and ICH have committed to their ongoing use and maintenance extending past the conclusion of the project.

Mick Foy, Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency UK and Chair of the ICH MedDRA Management Committee said "This is an exciting development and an important milestone. Developing interoperability between SNOMED CT and MedDRA has been a long–standing ambition and will greatly enhance data collection for regulatory purposes and for drug safety research".

SNOMED International CEO, Don Sweete, welcomes the evolution of the organization's relationship with ICH. "It is exciting to see a long–term alliance borne from a collaborative project created to improve drug safety for patients and citizens. This agreement serves a joint commitment by two organizations dedicated to enabling health systems interoperability across regulatory and clinical continuums."

The Production version of the two maps is being made available to licensed SNOMED CT and MedDRA users on April 30, 2021 and will be based on the January 2021 version of SNOMED CT and the September 2020 version of MedDRA. It is planned that the maps will be released annually in April.

To access the maps:

Visit SNOMED International or MedDRA's Maintenance and Support Services Organization (MSSO) for map release documents, including:

  • MedDRA–SNOMED CT Mapping Conventions are available here for SNOMED CT users and here for MedDRA users.
  • Criteria for accepting requests for additions or changes to SNOMED CT to MedDRA map and MedDRA to SNOMED CT map is available here for SNOMED CT users and here for MedDRA users.
  • Map Change Request Tool (Map CR) and Map CR User Guide

For more information on these maps and resources, please contact MedDRA MSSO ( or SNOMED International (

About SNOMED International:

SNOMED International is a not–for–profit organization that owns and develops SNOMED CT, the world's most comprehensive healthcare terminology product. We play an essential role in improving the health of humankind by determining standards for a codified language that represents groups of clinical terms. This enables healthcare information to be exchanged globally for the benefit of patients and other stakeholders. We are committed to the rigorous evolution of our products and services, to deliver continuous innovation for the global healthcare community. SNOMED International is the trading name of the International Health Terminology Standards Development Organisation.

To learn more about SNOMED International and SNOMED CT, visit

About the International Council for Harmonisation of Technical Requirements for Pharmaceuticals for Human Use

The International Council for Harmonisation of Technical Requirements for Pharmaceuticals for Human Use (ICH) is an international non–profit organisation unique in bringing together the regulatory authorities and pharmaceutical industry to discuss scientific and technical aspects of pharmaceuticals and develop ICH guidelines. ICH's mission is to achieve greater harmonisation worldwide to ensure that safe, effective and high quality medicines are developed, and registered and maintained in the most resource efficient manner whilst meeting high standards. MedDRA has been developed by ICH and is continuously enhanced to meet the evolving needs of regulators and industry around the world.

To learn more about the International Council for Harmonisation of Technical Requirements for Pharmaceuticals for Human Use and MedDRA, visit and


Taconic Biosciences Launches New COVID-19 Mouse Model

RENSSELAER, N.Y., April 29, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Taconic Biosciences, a global leader in providing drug discovery animal model solutions, announces the launch of a new COVID–19 mouse model. This human ACE2 (hACE2) transgenic mouse expands Taconic's COVID–19 research toolkit.

In October 2020, Taconic launched its first hACE2 model. The AC70 mouse experiences a lethal response to infection by SARS–CoV–2, the virus that causes COVID–19. Conversely, the new AC22 mouse is lethality–resistant, enabling therapeutic, vaccine, and post–infection symptom research.

Although various hACE2 mouse models of lethal SARS–CoV–2 infection exist, the hACE2 AC22 lethality–resistant model is important because it permits study of sublethal infection. Most humans infected with SARS–CoV–2 survive, and an animal model which replicates sublethal disease and recovery is needed. The hACE2 AC22 mouse provides a longer study window to assess drug efficacy compared to lethal infection models.

"While vaccines bring hope of an end to the pandemic, research on COVID–19 is still needed," shared Dr. Michael Seiler, vice president of commercial models at Taconic. "There is a huge population of people who have now had the disease. We need models that also survive this disease long enough to aid in replicating that human condition. It cannot be overstated just how important this new AC22 model is in enabling that research."

Study ready cohorts of animals are available for immediate ordering.

To learn more about hACE2 mice or Taconic's Coronavirus Toolkit, please contact Taconic at 1–888–TACONIC (888–822–6642) in the US, +45 70 23 04 05 in Europe, or email

About Taconic Biosciences, Inc.
Taconic Biosciences is a fully–licensed, global leader in genetically engineered rodent models and services. Founded in 1952, Taconic provides the best animal solutions so that customers can acquire, custom generate, breed, precondition, test, and distribute valuable research models worldwide. Specialists in genetically engineered mouse and rat models, microbiome, immuno–oncology mouse models, and integrated model design and breeding services, Taconic operates three service laboratories and six breeding facilities in the U.S. and Europe, maintains distributor relationships in Asia, and has global shipping capabilities to provide animal models almost anywhere in the world.

Media Contact: Kelly Owen Grover
Director of Marketing Communications
(518) 697–3824

A Free & Accessible Vaccine is Just out of Reach for Palestinians

Young Palestinians drive their boat along the coast near the Gaza Sea port, selling boat rides as a way to earn a living. Credit: Laila Barhoum/ Oxfam

By Laila Barhoum
GAZA, Apr 29 2021 – We were able to keep the coronavirus at bay for five months in Gaza, the densely populated Palestinian strip of land surrounded by Israel that I call home. But the Coronavirus doesn’t respect walls or artificial borders. While preparations were made for the pandemic to inevitably breach a blockade so few Palestinians can, we waited for it to come for us. And it did.

In one of the most sealed off places in the world, we knew the virus now insidiously spreading in our community could be catastrophic. In the early days the realities of over two million Palestinians, trapped between a wall and sea in Gaza, became suddenly shared with millions more around the world who were unable to leave their houses and going short on basic supplies. “Dear World, how is the lockdown? – Gaza” was trending on Twitter.

Now, like in the rest of the world, the virus is ripping through our already suffering community with a new surge calling for renewed lockdown measures – and with Ramadan beginning. But you can’t wear a mask when you don’t have one.

You can’t social distance when you live in a crowded refugee camp, or share a small house with a big family. You can’t wash your hands for 20 seconds when you don’t have enough running water. In Gaza, it’s hard to take measures to protect ourselves from a pandemic when we are already struggling to survive.

And as many countries begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel as the long-awaited vaccination programme gathers pace across the world, Gaza is once again left behind.

While Israel was celebrated globally for the leading pace of its vaccination rollout, the first shipment of 2,000 doses of the vaccine, intended for medical staff working in intensive care rooms and emergency departments, was initially blocked by Israeli authorities from entering Gaza.

For every subsequent batch of vaccines destined for our small coastal enclave, it will be Israel alone who determines whether it can enter. This is what its ‘separation policy’ means, keeping us isolated from the rest of the world and unable to break free from many chains, including the virus.

But it gets worse. As over half of the Israeli population are fully vaccinated against the Coronavirus, Israel used surplus vaccines as diplomatic bargaining chips, making deals with Czech Republic, Honduras, and Guatemala in exchange for UN votes and embassies.

Despite Israel’s vaccination campaign being extended to Palestinians with permits to work in Israel and its settlements, this does not come close to ensuring recovery in the Occupied Palestinian Territory or even covering our priority needs.

The long passage at the Erez crossing that Palestinians use to pass in and out of Gaza, when permitted. Credit: Laila Barhoum / Oxfam

Once again, Israel is refusing to effectively protect all Palestinians under its control and ensure their access to the most basic of healthcare, including an urgent vaccination campaign, that is their legal and moral obligation to provide.

This tells me and all other Palestinians across the occupied territory what we have been told so often before: that my life is viewed as inconsequential compared to Israel’s political position.

Our rights are traded away all too often to accommodate Israel, and so it is again with COVID-19. While countries around the world begin to vaccinate their citizens, Palestinians must fight to qualify as human beings who warrant even the most basic human rights. We see no indication that the world considers us deserving of a vaccine that can save our lives.

The Palestinian Authority recently received its first shipment of doses through COVAX, which are intended for healthcare workers and elderly people in the West Bank and Gaza. In the absence of a transparent Palestinian Authority COVID-19 strategy, some doses of vaccines destined for frontline workers have ended up in the hands of so called “VIP’s” – government officials, presidential guards and the Palestinian national football team.

There have been over 65,000 cases of COVID-19 in Gaza. Two months ago, as we waited and hoped for a vaccine, I became part of the statistics. After I tested positive, I was scared and I lost my sense of time and place, and kept thinking, what if it gets worse?

For almost a year I had been sounding the alarm about the poor conditions of the health system in Gaza. It was terrifying that I might need to go to the hospital for care. As my breath became shorter by the hour, I asked my lungs not to fail me. We are already failed by so many things here.

But I continue to fight and recover from the disease. And I can’t help but think about how much we need this vaccine and how it is only fair to have free and just access to it.

A safe, effective, and universal COVID-19 vaccine is a public health necessity, an economic priority, and a moral imperative for all people everywhere. Including my grandmother. including my fellow Palestinians. Including me.

Vaccines should never be bargaining chips. No one should be prevented from accessing life-saving vaccines because of where they were born, where they live, or how much money they have.

Here in Gaza, we are still trapped. Even if we get through this pandemic, I am not sure what will follow. The decisions that most shape our lives are made not by us, but by policymakers in Jerusalem, and to a lesser extent in Ramallah, Washington, and Brussels. They usually serve to increase our misery, not benefit us. No amount of strength, smarts, or ambition can overcome the powerlessness of living without rights.

A year into your pandemic lockdown, you may begin to understand what ours has been like. But your lockdown will end in the months to come. Ours has been in place for 13 years with no end in sight.


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