Dangerous Work: Attacks on Journalists Increase

Dangerous Work: Attacks on Journalists Increase

A free press is a hallmark of democracy. Yet around the world, journalists are under threat for doing their job, risking their lives to report the news, ask difficult questions and hold the corrupt to account. According to an International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) study released for World Press Freedom Day, “journalists face killings, attacks, violence, bans and intimidation on a daily basis” around the world.

At its most extreme, the assault on journalism leads to murder, often with impunity. According to the IFJ, 93 journalists were killed in 2016, and 13 in the opening months of 2017. Over the last decade, most murdered journalists were local reporters covering politics and corruption, notes the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), with about a third of them “first taken captive, the majority of whom were tortured, amplifying the killers’ message of intimidation to the media community.”

Mexico is one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists, says the CPJ. Since 2010, more than 50 media workers were murdered or disappeared. The country ranks sixth on CPJ’s “Impunity Index,” which tracks the number of unsolved journalist murders as a percentage of population, in nations with five or more unsolved cases. Ahead of it are primarily countries in conflict: Somalia, Iraq, Syria, the Philippines and South Sudan.

Women journalists—targeted for their job as well as their gender—face additional challenges, including harassment and threats in the field, at the office and online. A soon-to-be-published survey of 214 women journalists in Pakistan, conducted by the Solidarity Center and Civic Action Resources, says that when women journalists are sexually harassed, “social taboos, segregation and stigma keep them

from speaking openly about it and seeking support. Since Pakistan is an honor-based society, any attack on a woman’s reputation can have serious repercussions for her, both professionally and personally.” The Solidarity Center works with Pakistani journalists—women and men—to achieve gender equality at the workplace and in the stories they report.

The CPJ also noted that a record number of media workers—259—were jailed in 2016. Nonetheless, journalists and their unions are taking a stand against rising authoritarianism and increasing restrictions on their ability to work. Around the world, reports the IFJ journalists’ unions are submitting formal protests to national and regional human rights bodies, advancing legal challenges and staging actions—from strikes to protests—“to defend media freedom and the rights of journalists.”

May Day: Standing up for Worker Rights across the Globe

May Day: Standing up for Worker Rights across the Globe

From Cambodia to Zimbabwe, in Serbia and Honduras, hundreds of thousands of workers and their families celebrated International Workers Day, honoring the dignity of work and the accomplishments of the labor movement in defending human rights, job stability, fair wages and safe workplaces. Together, workers and their unions are demonstrating their commitment to sustaining and improving worker lives.

Click here for our photo essay of May Day events by Solidarity Center allies around the globe.

Brazil Workers Strike in Early May Day Protest

Brazil Workers Strike in Early May Day Protest

Workers across Brazil launched a 24-hour general strike today, sparked by proposed legislation that would weaken labor regulations and force many Brazilians to work years longer before drawing a pension. Workers are protesting the government’s plans to remove all restrictions on outsourcing, impose drastic cuts on pensions, salaries and social security and dismantle labor rights, including provisions on vacations, overtime and working hours.

Brazil, general strike, pension, Solidarity Center, human rights

Workers protest pension cuts with signs saying, “No one should have to work until they die death.” Credit: CUT

“A small cabal of immensely wealthy business people are the only beneficiaries of what is in effect a scorched-earth economic policy involving a huge transfer of wealth to Brazil’s oligarchs,” says Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

More than 14 million Brazilians are unemployed and the country is in recession, even as nearly a third of President Michel Temer’s cabinet and congressional allies are under investigation, part of a widening corruption scandal that has revealed massive levels of graft at the top of government.

“We are making the biggest general strike in Brazil’s recent history to respond to the biggest attack on social, labor and social security rights that the working class has suffered,” says Claudir Nespolo, president of the Central Workers Union (CUT) in Rio Grande do Sul. CUT is Brazil’s biggest labor confederation and one of several federations that spearheaded the strike.

Unions and their members shut down the subway, train and bus in Sao Paulo, Brasilia, Salvador and Recife, and have partially paralyzed public transport in other major cities like Belo Horizonte and Rio.

Workers, Unions Targeted in Proposed Laws

Public transport staff, bankers, teachers and hundreds of thousands of other workers took to the streets two days after the lower house of Congress passed reforms Wednesday to reduce labor costs and erode the power of unions. The legislation is now in the Senate.

Luiza Batista, president of the National federation of Domestic Workers in Brazil, says the new labor reforms “will be awful” for domestic workers.

“A worker may have a contract with an employer that requires her an hour of work a day, or two hours a day, and her salary will not pay anything,” says Batista. “Employers take advantage of the workers’ needs, knowing their difficulties, to offer inhuman wages and hours of work.”

CUT President Vagner Freitas says the drastic cuts to worker rights are not about saving money but rather an attempt to weaken the trade union movement.

What the government wants to do is ensure “workers do not have a formal contract, so they do not have a clear and legal professional category and therefore have difficulty having a union that protects them,” says Freitas.

Next week, a special congressional commission is due to begin voting on a constitutional amendment that would overhaul the pension system. A survey published last month found that 72 percent of Brazilians opposed the pension reform.

Solidarity Center Safety Training: Empowering Workers

Solidarity Center Safety Training: Empowering Workers

In Dhaka, Bangladesh, this week, 50 children held torches alight, “beacons of life” to mark the four-year anniversary of the Rana Plaza building collapse that killed 1,130 garment workers—including their parents. Together with the National Garment Workers Federation (NGWF), which sponsored the event, the orphaned children prayed for their parents and stood vigil outside the Dhaka Press Club as union leaders vowed to never compromise when it comes to worker safety.

The Rana Plaza building, which housed five garment factories, collapsed April 24, 2013. Although the workers, mostly women, were evacuated because of cracks in the building the day before, managers forced workers into the building the next day, threatening their jobs if they failed to do so. Some 2,500 garment workers were injured—many of them losing limbs, and many more severely traumatized.

“If there was a union at Rana Plaza, (the collapse) may not have happened,” says Mohammad Ronju, a long-time organizer with the Bangladesh Independent Garment Workers Union Federation (BIGUF).

Garment Workers Empowered through Solidarity Center Safety Training

On World Day for Safety and Health at Work, as workers across the globe remember the dead and vow to fight for the living, a new Solidarity Center video highlights how Bangladesh garment workers are forming unions at considerable risk and negotiating for safer workplaces, better working conditions and dignity and respect on the job.

And many are doing so with the support of the Solidarity Center, which provides workers with the tools they need to improve their working and living conditions through a collective voice so that tragedies like Rana Plaza and the Tazreen Fashions factory fire never happen again. For instance, through Solidarity Center fire safety training, garment workers learn how to protect themselves and their workplaces, and advocate for safety and health improvements.

“After we completed 10 days of (fire safety) training, we could identify the risks around us,” union leader Saiful Islam says in the video. Following the training, Saiful and his co-workers talked with management and, ultimately, fire doors were installed and the building underwent fire and safety checks.

“We are able to talk to management about our different demands,” he says. “If there were no union, all these things would not be possible. A union is here, so these things are possible.”

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