2016 Ion Ratiu Democracy Award – Call for Nominations

Ratiu Parliament photo_0

The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars welcomes nominations for the 2016 Ion Ratiu Democracy Award. The purpose of the award is to bring visibility and international recognition to the ideas, ideals and accomplishments of individuals around the world who are working on behalf of democracy. The award expresses the deep commitment to democracy of the late Ion Ratiu through his contributions as a Romanian politician as well as his interest in democratic change worldwide.

Previous awardees include Jamil Hasanli (Azerbaijan, 2015), Mustafa Nayyem (Ukraine, 2014), Angela Kocze (Hungary, 2013), Aung San Suu Kyi (Myanmar, 2012), Nabeel Rajab (Bahrain, 2011), Oleg Kozlovsky (Russia, 2010), Adam Michnik (Poland, 2009), Eleonora Cercavschi (Moldova, 2008), Anatoli Mikhailov (Belarus, 2007), Saad Ibrahim (Egypt, 2006), and Sergio Aguayo (Mexico, 2005).

Deadline: June 1, 2016

Further information here.

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DRC shutters two private news channels

drc olpa 2

Authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo have ordered the closure of two privately-owned news channels. The decision was condemned by media rights groups and officials should allow the channels to resume broadcasting immediately, says the Committee to Protect Journalists:

Lambert Mende, the Congolese minister of communication and media, released a statement on January 20 saying that Nyota TV, and Radio TV Mapendo, both part of a news group based in Lubumbashi, Haut-Katanga province, had been ordered off air effective January 28, for allegedly failing to pay taxes and licensing fees, according to reports. Though the transmissions were cut, the TV Nyota website has continued to operate.

drc olpaOlivier Tuta, the director general of both stations, said the outstanding payments of USD$40,000 had been made on January 25 and 26, according to the press freedom group Journaliste en Danger and a statement from the local press freedom group OLPA [L’Observatoire de la Liberté de la Presse en Afrique – a grantee of the National Endowment for Democracy].

Both stations are owned by Moïse Katumbi, a businessman and politician who left the ruling party in September 2015 and later joined an opposition party, according to reports and the statement by Journaliste en Danger .  Katumbi, who was formerly the governor of Haut-Katanga province, has been rumored in reports as a potential opposition candidate ahead of the presidential elections due to take place later this year.

“The Congolese authorities should allow Nyota TV and Radio TV Mapendo to resume broadcasting immediately,” said CPJ Deputy Executive Director Robert Mahoney. “Broadcasting is a public service and governments cannot use the pretext of non-payment of licensing fees to hastily shutter those stations whose views they may not like.”

Over the past 12 months CPJ has documented several attacks on the press in the Democratic Republic of Congo, from blocking Internet and cell phone access and banning the screening of a critical documentary, to arbitrary arrests and physical attacks on journalists.

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Obama visit must not boost Cuba’s neo-Castroism

cuba rodilesCommunist-governed Cuba imports more than two-thirds of its food, despite having rich farmland and hundreds of urban farms sprouting up in old parking lots, rooftops, or other small plots of unused land. The country spends more than $2 billion a year importing rice, meat, grains and other foods which analysts and local farmers say could be produced at home, Reuters reports:

The government, under President Raul Castro, says it is serious about producing more food for Cuba’s 11 million citizens, and some environmentalists have praised it for supporting organic urban farming, which uses no chemical pesticides or fertilizers. But local farmers and analysts say Cuba will not achieve self-sufficiency in food in the near future, despite improved trade with the United States after Washington re-established diplomatic relations last year with its former Cold War foe.

CUBA EXPRESSIONMore than a year after the announcement of the restoration of relations between the United States government and the Havana regime, the direction that the political and economic landscape of our island will take remains uncertain, writes dissident analyst Antonio G. Rodiles [above, after being assaulted by pro-regime thugs]:

The administration of President Barack Obama has outlined and is delivering a broad agenda full of concessions to the regime without asking for or receiving anything in return, either for the United States or for the Cuban people……The United States government has validated the Castro regime as a political actor, and expects that internal and external sectors, including the opposition, accept this premise and develop strategies based on it.

There is strong concern that a trip to Cuba by the United States president will be another boost to neo-Castroism, he notes, supporting three basic steps proposed by the Forum for Rights and Freedoms (ForoDyL) are:

  • Immediately cease the repression against every Cuban who defends their fundamental rights and freedoms. Amnesty for political prisoners or prisoners confined for acts with political connotations.
  • Ratification and monitoring of the implementation of the United Nations Covenants on Human Rights.
  • Formal meeting with a representation of the Cuban opposition.


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Asia’s democratic regression fuels rise of Islamist militants


Today, few people are touting democracy in Southeast Asia as an example of political freedoms, notes Council on Foreign Relations analyst Joshua Kurlantzick. In Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, and other countries in the region, a lack of political freedom has been probably the biggest driver of militancy, he writes:

Once touted as a democratic beacon for other developing regions, since the late 2000s, much of Southeast Asia has witnessed a democratic retrenchment. …..Of course, the extremism that has bloomed in Southeast Asia from failed democratization does not only entail Islamism. Southeast Asia’s failed democratization has sparked many forms of extremist groups, all of which pay little heed to legal, constitutional means of resolving political conflicts….

“Terrorist attacks are always a possibility in Indonesia, even if the government has shifted public opinion against Islamists and destroyed many militant cells,” Kurlantzick notes. “Yet Indonesia’s open society has helped inoculate the country against the possibility that militant groups inspired by the Islamic State will gain large numbers of followers.”


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