Saturday May 25, 2013
William Gomes: An Outspoken Voice for the VoicelessKourosh Ziabari Salem-News.com
"I have seen journalism from a very different point of view for years." - William Nicholas Gomes
(TEHRAN / SALEM) - William Gomes is a young, progressive journalist and human rights activist from Bangladesh. He has written widely about the human rights violations around the world and was recently declared as the Human Rights Ambassador for the U.S.-based news website Salem-News.
While working for the Asian Human rights commission, he worked on the issues of arbitrary arrest and detention, extrajudicial killings, torture, fabrication of charges, death in custody, sexual violence, right to fair trial etc.
William took part in an interview with me to discuss his first engagement with journalism, his viewpoints on the most challenging human rights questions, his selection as the Salem-News Human Rights Ambassador and his viewpoints on the anti-Iranian campaign of sanctions and war threats.
I think you're trying to look into journalism from a different and innovative perspective. Would you please tell us about your attitude toward journalism and the innovations you want to introduce?
I have seen journalism from a very different point of view for years. I have had chance to contribute in different mainstream media around the world and in the mean time I have tried to redefine journalism though blogging. I am the assistant
I have missed one thing very much and that is democratic media. Corporate media talks about democracy while claiming that they promote democracy but the truth is painfully visible; that democracy is absent within their structure. I was looking to breach the gap between corporate and non-corporate media, trying to introduce an alternative to government and corporate media. I am working to introduce fully democratic media, which is democratic in nature. I have observed in the mainstream media culture, people gaining importance merely by being useful tools of the business and political powers. I am working to create media that promotes pro-people journalism, where journalists work for the public good and in a democratic process.
You have recently been selected as the Human Rights Ambassador by Salem-News website. Would you please speak about your selection and your feeling about this important event in your life?
As I mentioned before that I am working to create media that promotes pro-people journalism. I identify Salem-News.com as a pro-people and democratic medium which is unique, and the fact that the site has been online for so many years, means it has a significant ranking and it reaches not only a fair share of readers, but also many journalists worldwide; this is important. When realizing the potential we possessed together to effect change, Bonnie and Tim and their group nominated me as the "Human Rights Ambassador."
Basic policy principles
Since the formation of the office "Human Rights Ambassador" our goal is to seek to set a minimum standard of human dignity: that is, the dignity of every individual, regardless of the wider contexts like tribe, social class and state, of which every human being is part around the world. Human rights are therefore universal by definition and apply to everyone, everywhere at all times.
As a Human Rights Ambassador, these are the responsibilities which we have assumed:
Casework: Brining forward the cases of different human rights violations in light systematically and presenting it before the world and making it available in public domain. To integrate human rights into all areas of foreign and development cooperation policy, and across all issues in which human rights play a role in relations between different countries of the world.
Advocacy: with governments, parliaments, international organizations and the media. To conduct missions, to discuss human rights questions, explore the scope for dialogue and, occasionally, form part of the delegation of foreign and development ministers.
Capacity Building: working in partnership with like-minded organizations around the world in order to propagate human rights policy and acquire new ideas.
What are the plans and programs you would like to realize as a Human Rights Ambassador?
My office has a very specific plan to make the human rights office into its highest degree of success to make it more people-oriented, for which we are focusing on some thematic issues:
a) Abolition of the death penalty: We firmly oppose the death penalty everywhere. For that we will pursues the abolition of the death penalty partly through our works and more importantly through close cooperation with our works and relations with different countries.
b) Protection from torture: Opposing torture and providing support to torture victims will always be priority areas of Salem-News human rights policy. As part of the campaign against inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, we will also bring forth research based educational works focusing on elimination of torture in different countries.
c) Human rights defenders: Human rights defenders were chosen as the central human rights issues. We will make a special effort to support human rights defenders and will push different governments for the adoption of different international declarations and domestic mechanisms that would specifically seek to protect them and their organizations.
d) Freedom of expression: Our human rights policy in this area will focus primarily on supporting peoples of different countries where freedom of expression is not respected.
e) Freedom of religion and belief: Our works will actively to promote and protect the freedom of religion and belief, and to provide support to any victims of violations in this area. We will seek to call the authorities of third countries to account for violations of this freedom within their territories: the countries concerned include Iran, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nigeria, Sudan, Indonesia, China and countries in Central Asia.
f) Rights of minorities: Our policy focuses on bolstering the position of minorities throughout the world. We will call countries to account for their policies on minorities, bilaterally and in multilateral forums. Minorities often suffer discrimination in terms of civil and political rights as well as economic, social and cultural rights. Our efforts will be promoting the human rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and of indigenous peoples worldwide.
The protection of the rights of national minorities gradually emerged as a priority in international forums such as the UN, the Council of Europe and the OSCE. It is clear that minorities occupy a non-dominant position within society, that they are distinguished from the majority by linguistic, ethnic, religious or cultural characteristics, and that they are eager to preserve their identity. Minorities and indigenous peoples are often victims of discrimination, racism, and religious or other forms of intolerance. Where the rights of minorities are at stake, internal or even international crises may arise.
Non-discrimination: Our policy is geared towards protecting and strengthening the position of people in parts of the society where they might become victims of discrimination and intolerance. These groups include women, ethnic, national and religious minorities.
Economic, social and cultural rights: Economic, social and cultural (ESC) rights include the right to work, the right to choose work that is freely chosen or accepted, the right to education and the right to an adequate standard of living, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and the right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. Our human rights policy is based on the assumption that civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights are all equally important, and are interrelated and mutually reinforcing.
Development cooperation, at the heart of which is poverty reduction, is a major instrument for achieving ESC rights and goes beyond only achieving a certain level of socioeconomic development. Fair distribution of wealth, social justice, and non-discrimination are all equally important. It is essential for members of the public to have a say about development in their country.
Many activities financed under development cooperation policy help bolster the ESC rights of people throughout the world, especially in bilateral cooperation programs with partner countries. These include interventions relating to food, education, healthcare, housing, and so forth. The point is to ensure not only that people have access to provision, but also that they know what they are entitled to.
It is very clear, that the U.S. is already engaged in a war with Iran, and the open declaration of war is the only thing that is missing. Iran is a new Iraq for the U.S. administration. The U.S. administration is waiting to propagate and spread fabricated international terror on this historic nation.
So, what's your viewpoint regarding the repeated war threats of Israel and the U.S. against Iran and the economic sanctions which have been imposed upon the country?
The war threats and sanctions are part of a deadly political game which the U.S. and Israel seek to engage Iran in. Iran and the U.S. and their allies have their own role in this game. I have enough information that western intelligence officials are active in Iran. Any preemptive U.S. attack on Iran would be illegal and criminal. We should look carefully into the matter of cost and benefits of waging war on Iran; who, how and what will cost and who will benefit from the war.
I think the progressive forces within the U.S. military force should refuse illegal orders to attack Iran. I believe there are more courageous and honest people like former marine and weapons inspector in Iraq and Jeff Paterson who refused to fight in the 1991 war against Iraq. Salem-News.com's association with OCCUPY MARINES is very crucial. It is a simple fact that people in America are increasingly realizing that the only beneficiary of an attack on Iran, is Israel. I don't think people of the United States really want to pay the cost for that. I am in touch with many U.S. military officials who will resist the illegal and criminal initiative of the U.S. government to start a war on Iran. Anti-Iranian sanctions are anti-people sanctions. I also hope that at any cost people of Iran will make sure their stand is clear in respect of democracy and peace.
As you may know, Pastor Terry Jones burnt copies of the Holy Quran last month. He had initiated this devilish plan in 2010 and repeated it in the early 2012. What's your idea about him and his desecration of the holy book of Muslims?
I strongly oppose any kind of religious fundamentalism and believe that burning the holy Quran is condemnable. I publicly condemn the burning of Holy Quran and anyone who has done that should be brought before a court of justice. The act is bad enough, but the repercussions from these events are often both damaging, and lasting.
And finally, what is the peak which you would like to climb?
I have started something that I believe some other people will take up and the movement for peace will continue. When it becomes strong, we will be able to conquer human suffering and rebuild dignity and respect. I believe that is indeed the most elevated zenith we could set out to climb.
_______________________________________Kourosh Ziabari is an Iranian media correspondent, freelance journalist and the author of Book 7+1. He is a contributing writer for websites and magazines in the Netherlands, Canada, Italy, Hong Kong, Bulgaria, South Korea, Belgium, Germany, the U.K. and the U.S. He was once a member of Stony Brook University Publications’ editorial team and Media Left magazine’s contributing writer, as well as a contributing writer for Finland’s Award-winning Ovi Magazine.
Kourosh Ziabari was named the winner of winners in the category of media activities at the National Organization of Youths festival. He was honored by the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, receiving the honorary mention signed by him and the silver medal of Iran's Superior Youth. The media activities category did not award the Gold and Bronze medal to any participant.
As a young Iranian journalist, Kourosh has been interviewed and quoted by several mainstream mediums, including BBC World Service, PBS Media Shift, the Media Line network, Deutsch Financial Times and L.A. Times. Currently, he works for the Foreign Policy Journal as a media correspondent. He is a member of Tlaxcala Translators Network for Linguistic Diversity and World Student Community for Sustainable Development. You can write to Kourosh Ziabari at: email@example.com
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