Press freedom campaigns and unjust prosecutions of journalists’ put spotlight on Turkey’s breach of international obligations

Source: Association of European Journalists (AEJ.org)

Press freedom campaigns and unjust prosecutions of journalists’ put spotlight on Turkey’s breach of international obligations

Reporters Without Borders has challenged the UK prime minister to hold Turkey to its democratic obligations as protests mark President Erdogan’s London visit; AEJ reports and commentaries set out the mountain of evidence showing that Turkey is trampling on press freedom and in systematic violation of the rule of law by jailing journalists and silencing opposition voices…

Latest AEJ reports and commentaries describe the growing mountain of evidence that Turkey is trampling on press freedom and is in systematic violation of the rule of law by jailing journalists and silencing opposition voices. AEJ president Otmar Lahodynsky took part in a European Parliament debate where leading European figures flatly condemned the Turkish government’s outright assault on press freedom and basic standards of justice (see below).

On Tuesday Reporters Without Borders (RSF) published its letter to British prime minister Theresa May on the day she meets President Erdogan amid street protests on his high-profile London visit. In the open letter RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire challenges Ms May to call for the release of over 100 jailed journalists and to hold Turkey accountable for upholding its own laws and international obligations regarding press freedom and the unprecedented stifling of free expression there.

The Reporters Without Borders’ letter says:

Dear Prime Minister,

I am writing on behalf of Reporters Without Borders – known internationally as Reporters sans frontieres (RSF) – to urge you to raise press freedom concerns as a matter of urgent priority in your meeting with Turkish President Erdogan on 15 May. Specifically, we ask you to call for the release of Turkey’s many jailed journalists and a stop to the unprecedented crackdown on freedom of expression taking place in the country, which is a source of destabilisation both for Turkey and all of Europe.

I last wrote to you in January 2017 ahead of your visit to Ankara, where you met with President Erdogan. We appreciated the response we later received from Sir Alan Duncan, but were disappointed that you did not specifically mention the plight of the unjustly jailed journalists, or the broader crackdown on freedom of expression in the country. Remaining publicly silent on these worrying issues whilst agreeing new trade deals with President Erdogan sends the wrong signal about the UK’s priorities in its bilateral relations with Turkey.

Now, 15 months after your visit, the freedom of expression situation in Turkey is more dire than ever. Turkey recently dropped to 157th out of 180 countries in Reporters’ Without Borders 2018 World Press Freedom Index, and remains the world’s biggest prison for professional journalists. Under the state of emergency imposed following the failed coup attempt in July 2016, over 100 journalists have been arrested, more than 140 media outlets closed, and at least 889 press cards rescinded…

Read the complete RSF letter to Prime Minister Theresa May:

https://rsf.org/en/news/rsf-urges-theresa-may-call-release-turkeys-jailed-journalists-meeting-president-erdogan

The AEJ’s Otmar Lahodynsky participated in the European Parliament’s event marking World Press Freedom Day, where leading European figures condemned the sweeping assault on media freedom and journalists’ rights in Turkey. Here is his summary of the meeting:

The European Parliament and the European Commission organized a seminar about the sad situation of journalists in Turkey from May 3rd till May 4th in Brussels. Some journalists from Turkey could attend and spoke out freely about the many restrictions of media freedom under the regime of President Erdogan and over 150 colleagues in jail. There was strong criticism about the attitude of the European Court for Human Rights in Strasburg – part of the European Council- which has so far accepted only a few cases of imprisoned journalists in Turkey.

„Turkey distances itself from Turkey even further“, said EP-President Antonio Tajani. „Turkey is doing the opposite of what would be necessary for joining the EU.“

„Despite all appeals the attacks on media go on in a big scale“, said EU-Commissioner Johannes Hahn, who is responsible for enlargement and neighborhood-policy. „It is not at all acceptable that so many journalists, academics and members of parliament are in jail.“ The measures taken after the failed coup from July 15th 2016 are out of proportion. And there will be no visa-free travel for Turkish citizens into the EU if Turkey does not change the law on fighting terrorism.

Read Otmar’s “profil” news magazine article on the Brussels event in German here: https://www.profil.at/ausland/mediengefaengnis-tuerkei-10057280

And on 2 May this article by Otmar Lahodynsky on “Media Freedom Under Threat” appeared in the Austrian newspaper Die Presse: It recounts how press freedom has retreated inside the EU within the past year:

https://diepresse.com/home/meinung/gastkommentar/5416231/Bedrohte-Medienfreiheit

AEJ UK member Firdevs Robinson writes every week about the unfolding events in Turkey on her widely-read “Talk Turkey” blog. Read it here:

http://www.firdevstalkturkey.com/

On 1 May Firdevs wrote about the “Difficulties of court reporting in Turkey”:

The principle of open justice is central to the rule of law, and the media play a vital role by fairly and accurately reporting court proceedings to the public. In Turkey, at a time when confidence in the law seems at an all-time low, the job of the media to act as the eyes and The principle of open justice is central to the rule of law, and the media play a vital role by fairly and accurately reporting court proceedings to the public. In Turkey, at a time when confidence in the law seems at an all-time low, the job of the media to act as the eyes and ears of the public is getting riskier each day…

Read the article in full: http://www.firdevstalkturkey.com/turkeys-world/difficulties-of-court-reporting-in-turkey/

(Read more at Association of European Journalists (AEJ.org))

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AEJ journalists mark World Press Freedom Day across Europe: the intensifying struggle to save independent media

Source: Association of European Journalists (AEJ.org)

AEJ journalists mark World Press Freedom Day across Europe: the intensifying struggle to save independent media.

World Press Freedom Day this year saw anti-media violence during Armenia’s popular uprising against a repressive government; new actions to silence independent journalism in Hungary and Turkey, and multiple protests against the murder of two journalists in the past year in Malta and Slovakia and ‘vicious ties’ between some governments and criminal elements.

A special report from the UNESCO 2018 World Press Freedom Day conference in Accra, Ghana on May 2-3 is published separately on this website:

Out of Africa: the winning ways of the enemies of press freedom: http://www.aej.org/page.asp?p_id=635

ARMENIA: The AEJ and other press freedom organisations have been monitoring frequent cases of police violence against journalists over several years of public protests against the increasingly authoritarian rule of prime minister Serzh Sargsyan. Hetq.am reported 17 cases of unjustified violence during the most recent protests, In an online article the newspaper highlighted past failures by the authorities to ensure that police and plain-clothes attackers of journalists are punished as they must be.

http://hetq.am/eng/news/88428/armenias-human-rights-defender-says-the-work-of-reporters-musty-be-fully-safeguarded.html

The Council of Europe’s Platform on the safety of journalists and protection of journalism carried this Alert about the latest violent attacks on journalists.

Violence Against Reporters During 11 Days of Protests in Armenia https://go.coe.int/ZMC14

BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA: Members of the AEJ in Bosnia participated in the press conference on May 3 in Sarajevo where the Annual report on ‘Media Freedom in BiH in 2018’ by the BH Journalists Association was presented. The event was supported by the Friedrich-Ebert Foundation. The occasion was reported in full by Media Daily online:

BiH citizens trust media more than politicians

Also on May 3, the BJA organized street campaigns and promotions in several cities by the Youth Press Association (ONA u BiH), who distributed promotional materials.

BULGARIA: This year the Association of European Journalists – Bulgaria marked the World Press Freedom Day (May 3rd) by organizing a series of lively events that focus on the difficulties the journalism faces. And AEJ Bulgaria marked the day with this article about the very high price some journalists are forced to pay for informing the public:

Journalists should not pay the high price of free speech on their own: www.aej-bulgaria.org/eng/p.php?post=2684&c=283

On March 26 AEJ-Bulgaria issued symbolic accreditation badges for 95 Turkish journalists for the EU-Turkey Leader’s Meeting in Varna, Bulgaria, in the frame of Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of EU. There the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met the Presidents of the Council and the Commission Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker and the Prime Minister of Bulgaria, Boyko Borissov. Journalists mainly from the West European media had worn the symbolic badges and a question about the human rights and freedom of speech in Turkey has been posed during the press conference/. AEJ-Bulgaria’s action was covered by many Bulgarian media. http://www.aej-bulgaria.org/eng/p.php?post=2658&c=290

On April 27th 2018 the International Conference “Children and the Media. Mission: Ethical Reporting” was held, organized by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Association of European Journalists. The conference was officially opened by Maria Jesus Conde, UNICEF Representative in Bulgaria and Irina Nedeva, Chairperson of AEJ-Bulgaria. The two organizations have announced the beginning of long-term cooperation aiming at a more respectful, ethical and inclusive representation of children in the public space. A Guidebook to help journalists and public relations professionals in their work with children was presented and a series of trainings are being developed, based on the Guidebook, targeting journalists, photo reporters and videographers, public relations specialists and students.

Dean Starkman is AEJ- Bulgaria’s special guest in the second week of May holding two public lectures in Sofia. On May 10th at Sofia University Starkman will speak about Brave New World: Global challenges to public interest journalism in the age of Trump and the topic for his lecture on May 11th will be Market Domination in Hungary. Why the Orban Story must be understood as a media story, how his FIDESZ party created a model for illiberal media policy in Europe, and independent investigative reporting’s increasingly important role on the frontiers of the fight for Hungarian democracy.

Dean Starkman is a senior editor with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. He is also a fellow at Center for Media, Data and Society and a visiting lecturer at the School of Public Policy at Central European University, Budapest. He is the author of The Watchdog That Didn’t Bark: The Financial Crisis and the Disappearance of Investigative Journalism (Columbia University Press, 2014), an acclaimed analysis of business-press failures prior to the 2008 financial crisis.

HUNGARY: “What kind of media for what kind of society?”

Well known international experts speak out about press freedom and social media

On the eve of World Press Freedom Day, at the end of April 2018, an important conference was held under the title „What kind of media for what kind of society?” in the ancient historical castle of the Karolyi family in Fehervarcsurgo, 85 km south-west from Budapest. Press freedom, media independence, fake news and the impact of social media dominated the presentations of famous experts and journalists. The conference was opened by H. E. Eric Fournier, Ambassador of France in Budapest, who depicted the tragic situation of journalists in Turkey and emphasized the importance of press freedom in democratic societies. Very many distinguished professors, researchers and journalists took up the invitation of the Jozsef Karolyi Foundation and shared their insights about the state of the media in Europe and the struggles to ensure that independent media survive.

Highlights included the presentation of professor Stephan Russ-Mohl (Lugano) about the foundations of open and well-informed societies and its enemies, and an analysis by Professor Marc Lits (Louvain-la-Neuve) who outlined the troubling changes in the political public discourse and the impact of social media. Celestine Bohlen, former correspondent of the New York Times in Moscow, Budapest and Paris, gave her insights into the interconnection between media and message and the massive impact of technology on the content of the news media.

The presentation of Jozsef Martin, professor emeritus of the Eszterhazy Karoly University (Eger, Hungary) and president of the Hungarian Section of AEJ was in tune with the newest press freedom list of 180 countries by Reporters Without Borders, where Hungary is ranking on the not very elegant 73th place – ten years ago the Hungarian ranking was much better in 17th place. That means that Hungary is now ranked below Senegal as well as Poland and Romania. Jozsef Martin depicted the public media as dominated by the direct influence of government, and the process of growing number of media dependent on the government or businessmen and companies close to the government; meanwhile the independent critical media is losing ground and media pluralism is bleeding. Hungarian media people, especially journalists, need a strong inner moral code during their hard work where they constantly have to face with different pressures, said Martin.

The lectures of the two day conference will be published by the end of this year by the Publishing House L’Harmattan and the Jozsef Karolyi Foundation.

MALTA: The AEJ was among the many media and freedom of expression groups which issued this joint statement in October 2017 after the murder of the celebrated Maltest investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia:

“Index on Censorship and 15 other press freedom organisations, including the AEJ, jointly condemn the killing of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia and call for an immediate and independent investigation into her death…“ Read the whole item here: http://www.aej.org/page.asp?p_id=603

The AEJ also supported the successful bid for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to appoint a Repporteur charged with overseeing the Maltese investigation into the killing; and took part in a vigil outside the diplomatic mission of Malta in London and other public events and meetings with politicians, experts and members of the Caruana family.

EUObserver published this compelling piece outlining the background of Daphne’s case, saying that the ‘Malta problem’ is a serious problem for the EU: https://euobserver.com/justice/141707

SLOVAKIA: In February the AEJ Slovakian Section published this statement after the cold-blooded murder killing of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancee:

http://www.aej.org/page.asp?p_id=625

TURKEY: AEJ Turkey, a member of the G9 Platform which is an umbrella for 10 Turkish journalists’ associations, took a leading role in special events organized both on the Labour Day (May 1) and Press Freedom Day.

On both days G9 Platform member associations acted together to raise their voice in solidarity with jailed journalists, to protest the sale of country’s biggest media group to a pro-government business and the exclusion of opposition voices in mainstream media and state TV in the run-up to a very critical election in June.

On Labour Day, G9 Platform journalists marched behind the banner “Journalism is not a crime” carrying placards protesting the terrible media freedom situation in Turkey. On May 3rd they made a joint statement signed by each G9 Platform member association, starting with AEJ Turkey.

THE AEJ’S WEBSITE: Our website has published many other reports, articles and joint statements of protest concerning attacks on press freedom in the past year, including highlights from the recent Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index, on www.aej.org

THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE’S PLATFORM: The AEJ is one of the partner organisations of the Council of Europe’s Platform for the protection of journalism and the safety of journalists on www.coe.int/fom

Subscribe to the Council of Europe’s ‘Safety of Journalists Weekly’ newsletter through this LINK:

http://www.coe.int/en/web/media-freedom/subscribe

(Read more at Association of European Journalists (AEJ.org))

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Data protection reform – Parliament approves new rules fit for the digital era

Source: EuroParl.Europa.eu

New EU data protection rules which aim to give citizens back control of their personal data and create a high, uniform level of data protection across the EU fit for the digital era was given their final approval by MEPs on Thursday. The reform also sets minimum standards on use of data for policing and judicial purposes.

Parliament’s vote ends more than four years of work on a complete overhaul of EU data protection rules. The reform will replace the current data protection directive, dating back to 1995 when the internet was still in its infancy, with a general regulation designed to give citizens more control over their own private information in a digitised world of smartphones, social media, internet banking and global transfers.

“The general data protection regulation makes a high, uniform level of data protection throughout the EU a reality. This is a great success for the European Parliament and a fierce European ‘yes’ to strong consumer rights and competition in the digital age. Citizens will be able to decide for themselves which personal information they want to share”, said Jan Philipp Albrecht (Greens, DE), who steered the legislation through Parliament.

(Read more at EuroParl.Europa.eu)

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President Niinistö: Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un Welcome to Finland for Talks Promoting Peace

Source: Yle.fi

Finnish President Sauli Niinistö said he’s pleased that Finland has been mentioned as a possible meeting ground for the US and North Korean leaders.

Finland would “warmly welcome” US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un for talks promoting peace, Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö said in a television interview on Saturday.

“It’s great that Finland has been mentioned in this context. But it is another matter where the talks will eventually take place. I doubt anyone knows that yet,” Niinistö said.

His comment was in response to speculation from news outlets in the United States that Finland might be one of the meeting places under consideration. Trump himself confirmed on Friday that two or three locations are still in the running, but did not mention them by name.

Finland’s chances might be better than the rest in that preliminary talks on “building confidence and reducing tensions” on the Korean Peninsula already quietly took place at the Königstedt Manor in Vantaa this March. North Korean, South Korean and US representatives were in attendance at the state venue near Helsinki, along with observers from the United Nations and Europe.

(Read more at Yle.fi)

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Quality Over Quantity

Text and photos by Violetta Teetor

Helsinki Distilling Company may not be big, but they’re uncompromising when it comes to quality. The old power station at one end of the Teurastamo district where the old abattoir used to be housed, pumps out as much punch today as it did in the days when it was used for lighting and heating. Nowadays it’s a full-blown distillery complete with restaurant and bar.

The European Journalist Network visits the Helsinki Distilling Company.

With a capacity of generating over 2000 bottles of booze per week, Helsinki Distilling Company prides itself on the fact that it produces London-style Helsinki Dry Gin and is the very first whiskey maker in this city after prohibition ended. The uniqueness of all their products is the fresh, pure taste of Finnish water. Combine this with distinctive flavours of Finnish rye and barley, berries from the forests and fells of Lapland, and herbs and spices grown locally, put it in the hands of Head Distiller Mikko Mykkänen with partners Kai Kilpinen and Séamus Holohan and you’re left with a winning formula. In fact, the entire team at HDC= and Tislaamo Bar and Restaurant are as enthusiastic about their products as they are of their company.

EJN’s tour guide at the Helsinki Distilling Company

Our guide Marietta is a delightful lady whose knowledge of the history of distilling in Finland as well as the intricacies of the methods and blends which they manufacture, takes us through a 45-minute tour of the place where the action happens. This is followed by a tasting of 4 of their products. No sugary, cloying, stick-to-the-roof-of-the-mouth long drink in their Helsinki Long Drink. This is a refreshing mix of their herby gin and pink grapefruit that could well be your choice at the end of a long week. The colour alone lifts the mood. Helsinki Dry Gin digs deep into the Finnish forest to bring you slightly tart Arctic lingonberry perfectly blended with the quintessential juniper and other herbs and stuff for you to discover. Helsingfors Fiskehamns Akvavit, a nod to the popular Swedish liquor, is again handcrafted with enough caraway seed to give it that distinguishing taste. I’m told Finland is the biggest caraway seed exporter in the world. Go figure.

Distiller

Guided tours of the distillery with a tasting afterwards need not be booked if there are only a few of you and take place weekly on Fridays and Saturdays at 6 pm. Tislaamo Restaurant is open from 5 pm from Wednesdays to Saturdays.

Tasting at the Helsinki Distilling Company

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Multiple murders of journalists in East and West ignored by 53 Commonwealth leaders at summit in London

Source: Association of European Journalists (AEJ.org)

Multiple murders of journalists in East and West ignored by 53 Commonwealth leaders at summit in London

Commonwealth leaders who met in London last week proclaimed their ‘proud history’ of promoting democracy and human rights. But they turned a blind eye to well-publicised cases of journalists being threatened or killed with impunity in member states – not only in Pakistan and India but in Malta, where anti-corruption journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed six months ago by a car bomb after alleging widespread corruption in high places.

William Horsley says the high-profile gathering in London turned a blind eye to increasing violence and censorship that have given cover to abuses of power in too many countries.

Foreign ministers from the organisation’s 53 member states meeting in London heard powerful appeals for the Commonwealth to do more to protect media independence and the lives of journalists who face threats and acts of violence for their work. But proposals which were described as ’Important and timely’ were submitted for the attention of Commonwealth leaders by an expert Working Group for a new ’code’ on media-government relations, but they were ignored in the final Communique.

http://thecommonwealth.org/media/news/commonwealth-heads-government-meeting-communiqu%C3%A9-%E2%80%9Ctowards-common-future%E2%80%9D

If the prime ministers and presidents of Commonwealth member states stretching from Asia and Europe to the Caribbean had been alert they should have been aware of the rising tide of demands for them to take determined action together to strengthen protections for free expression and free media wherever it is under attack. On 11 April the Institute of Commonwealth Studies and the Commonwealth Journalists Association hosted a well-attended event in London where prominent figures from around the Commonwealth called for its leaders to prioritise protections for independent media to enable free elections and to counter corruption and arbitrary misuses of political power.

The newly-published “Commonwealth Principles on Freedom of Expression and the Role of the Media in Good Governance”

www.cja-uk.org are designed to be a ’manual of good practice’ on the media’s dealings with governments, parliaments and courts. They were published before the summit and were commended to the attention of leaders through an established process by which initiatives from the Commonwealth’s partner organisations are put forward for the attention of the leaders at summits like the recent one in London..

The Communique did, however, re-affirm the leaders’ commitment to the Latimer House Principles on the democratic separation of powers which are accepted as expressing the Commonwealth’s fundamental political values. Heads requested the Commonwealth Secretariat to work in partnership with other Commonwealth organisations to promote dialogue with the three branches of government.

(Read more at Association of European Journalists (AEJ.org))

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Anti-Money Laundering: MEPs Vote To Shed Light On The True Owners of Companies

Source: European Parliament (EuroParl.Europa.eu)

  • Identify beneficial owners of companies operating in the EU
  • EP to back closer controls on virtual currencies
  • Greater protection for whistleblowers

To shed light on the true owners of letterbox companies, any citizen will, in future, be able to access data about the beneficial owners of firms operating in the EU.

MEPs supported on Thursday — by 574 votes to 13 votes, with 60 abstentions — a December agreement reached with the Council, which also proposed closer regulation for virtual currencies, like Bitcoin, to prevent them being used for money laundering and terrorism financing.

The agreement represents the fifth and latest update to the EU’s Anti-money laundering Directive and is partly a response to the terrorist attacks of 2015 and 2016 in Paris and Brussels, as well as the Panama Papers leaks.

(Read more at European Parliament (EuroParl.Europa.eu))

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Yanis Varoufakis: Marx predicted our present crisis – and points the way out

Source: TheGuardian.com

By Yanis Varoufakis

The Communist Manifesto foresaw the predatory and polarised global capitalism of the 21st century. But Marx and Engels also showed us that we have the power to create a better world.

For a manifesto to succeed, it must speak to our hearts like a poem while infecting the mind with images and ideas that are dazzlingly new. It needs to open our eyes to the true causes of the bewildering, disturbing, exciting changes occurring around us, exposing the possibilities with which our current reality is pregnant. It should make us feel hopelessly inadequate for not having recognised these truths ourselves, and it must lift the curtain on the unsettling realisation that we have been acting as petty accomplices, reproducing a dead-end past. Lastly, it needs to have the power of a Beethoven symphony, urging us to become agents of a future that ends unnecessary mass suffering and to inspire humanity to realise its potential for authentic freedom.

No manifesto has better succeeded in doing all this than the one published in February 1848 at 46 Liverpool Street, London. Commissioned by English revolutionaries, The Communist Manifesto (or the Manifesto of the Communist Party, as it was first published) was authored by two young Germans – Karl Marx, a 29-year-old philosopher with a taste for epicurean hedonism and Hegelian rationality, and Friedrich Engels, a 28-year-old heir to a Manchester mill.

As a work of political literature, the manifesto remains unsurpassed. Its most infamous lines, including the opening one (“A spectre is haunting Europe – the spectre of communism”), have a Shakespearean quality. Like Hamlet confronted by the ghost of his slain father, the reader is compelled to wonder: “Should I conform to the prevailing order, suffering the slings and arrows of the outrageous fortune bestowed upon me by history’s irresistible forces? Or should I join these forces, taking up arms against the status quo and, by opposing it, usher in a brave new world?”

For Marx and Engels’ immediate readership, this was not an academic dilemma, debated in the salons of Europe. Their manifesto was a call to action, and heeding this spectre’s invocation often meant persecution, or, in some cases, lengthy imprisonment. Today, a similar dilemma faces young people: conform to an established order that is crumbling and incapable of reproducing itself, or oppose it, at considerable personal cost, in search of new ways of working, playing and living together? Even though communist parties have disappeared almost entirely from the political scene, the spirit of communism driving the manifesto is proving hard to silence.

(Read more at TheGuardian.com)

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DiEM25 strongly condemns last night’s US-led strikes in Syria

Source: DiEM.org

DiEM25 strongly condemns last night’s US-led strikes in Syria. We condemn bombing as a cowardly, ineffectual move that will most certainly make the situation in Syria worse, not better. If chemical weapons were used by the Assad regime, the West’s bombs will not help the victims, nor avert further use of misanthropic weapons and methods by Assad or other combatants in Syria.

(Read more at DiEM.org)

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DiEM25 Workshop – Sheffield Conference

Showroom Workstation Creative Lounge, Sheffield

Saturday, 21 Apr 2018
2:00pm to 5:00pm

Part of Festival of Debate 2018 – www.festivalofdebate.com
In association with DiEM25

DiEM25 is a pan-European, cross-border movement of democrats, co-founded by Yanis Varoufakis, who have come together from our diverse political traditions to repair the EU for all Europeans, before it disintegrates. Brexit Britain is a key location in this task. Come and meet DiEM activists to discuss how we can plan local, regional, national and European projects together in the run-up to the European elections in 2019. All welcome.

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