View Full Version : Guardian UK: Human rights critics of Russia and Ecuador parade their own hypocrisy

22nd August 2012, 18:25
I wonder, is it OK to put articles here or better to give the link?

Well, since that's Guardian, I guess that I would share what I am reading with you.
The article poits the questions I ask myself and answers them in it's guardian way...))

have a read and comment!

Human rights critics of Russia and Ecuador parade their own hypocrisy


Readers of the American and British press over the past month have been inundated with righteous condemnations of Ecuador's poor record on press freedoms. Is this because western media outlets have suddenly developed a new-found devotion to defending civil liberties in Latin America? Please. To pose the question is to mock it.

It's because feigning concern for these oppressive measures is a convenient instrument for demeaning and punishing Ecuador for the supreme crime of defying the US and its western allies. The government of President Rafael Correa granted asylum to western establishmentarians' most despised figure, Julian Assange, and Correa's government then loudly condemned Britain's implied threats to invade its embassy. Ecuador must therefore be publicly flogged for its impertinence, and its press freedom record is a readily available whip. As a fun bonus, denunciations of Correa's media oppression is a cheap and easy way to deride Assange's supposed hypocrisy.

(Apparently, activists should only seek asylum from countries with pristine human rights records, whichever countries those might be: a newly concocted standard that was conspicuously missing during the saga of blind Chinese human rights activist Chen Guangcheng at the US embassy; I don't recall any western media outlets accusing Guangcheng of hypocrisy for seeking refuge from a country that indefinitely imprisons people with no charges, attacked Iraq, assassinates its own citizens with no due process on the secret orders of the president, bombs funerals and rescuers in Pakistan, uses extreme force and mass arrests to try to obliterate the peaceful Occupy protest movement, wages an unprecedented war on whistleblowers, prosecutes its Muslim citizens for posting YouTube videos critical of US foreign policy, embraces and arms the world's most oppressive regimes, and imprisoned Muslim journalists for years at Guantánamo and elsewhere with no charges of any kind.)

But this behavior illustrates how purported human rights concerns are cynically exploited as a weapon by western governments and, more inexcusably, by their nationalistic, self-righteous media enablers. Concern over a foreign regime's human rights abuses are muted, often nonexistent, when those regimes dutifully adhere to US dictates, but are amplified to deafening levels when nations defy those dictates and, especially, when it's time to wage war against them. This is why attacks on protesters by US-supported regimes in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia are typically described by western media outlets with the innocuous-sounding, both-sides-are-to-blame term "clashes with rebels", while villain-of-the-moment regimes in Iran, Syria or Libya are said to be slaughtering their own citizens. It's why arming Syrian rebels to enable them to defend against regime oppression is conventional wisdom, whereas arming Palestinian rebels to defend against Israeli violence is criminal.

The classic case of this dynamic is the outburst of indignation in 2003 over – all together now – Saddam's "gassing of his own people": something he had done 15 years earlier, in 1988, when the US was arming and funding him and had multiple interests in its relationship with Iraq, and thus evinced little care about any of that. It was only when it was time to demonize Saddam in order to justify the attack did western governments and their media outlets suddenly discover their retroactive rage over those crimes.

This exploitation of human rights concerns drives even the most seemingly straightforward cases, such as the universal condemnation among All Decent People of Russia's obviously repellent punishment of Pussy Riot, the anti-capitalist, hardcore-leftwing punk rock band. As the Russian journalist Vadim Nikitin demonstrates in a New York Times op-ed Tuesday, western denunciations of Russia's disregard for free speech are shaped far more by opportunism than anything authentic [my emphasis]:

"Pussy Riot and its comrades at Voina come as a full package: you can't have the fun, pro-democracy, anti-Putin feminism without the incendiary anarchism, extreme sexual provocations, deliberate obscenity and hard-left politics. Unless you are comfortable with all that (and I strongly suspect 99% of Pussy Riot's fans in the mainstream media are not), then standing behind Pussy Riot only now, when it is obviously blameless and the government clearly guilty, is pure opportunism. And just like in the bad old days, such knee-jerk yet selective support for Russian dissidents – without fully engaging with their ideas – is not only hypocritical but also does a great disservice to their cause.

"A former Soviet dissident and current member of the anti-Putin opposition, Eduard Limonov, knows such cynicism too well. Thrown out of the Soviet Union and welcomed in New York as a cold war trophy, Limonov soon learned that it wasn't the dissent part that the United States loved about Soviet dissidents, but their anti-communism. A bristly and provocative anti-Soviet leftist, he got to work doing what he did best – taking on the establishment – and quickly found himself in hot water again, this time with the Americans. Limonov concluded that 'the FBI is just as zealous in putting down American radicals as the KGB is with its own radicals and dissidents.'"

Nikitin notes what most western media accounts have ignored about Pussy Riot: its lead singer's "participation, naked and heavily pregnant, in a public orgy at a Moscow museum in 2008", sponsored by a radical art group that "had previously set fire to a police car and drew obscene images on a St Petersburg drawbridge". Those acts, he accurately observes, "would get you arrested just about anywhere, not just in authoritarian Russia".

Does anyone think that an American media that stands by complacently while excessive force and mass arrests are unleashed on the far more peaceful Occupy movement, or which says nothing about the systematic prosecution of American Muslims for core free-speech activities, possesses some sort of genuine concern for free speech and free assembly rights in Russia? As Nikitin rhetorically asks:

"Twenty years after the end of the cold war, are dissident intellectuals once again in danger of becoming pawns in the west's anti-Russian narrative?"

That's how human rights advocacy is typically used by the west's establishment media: as a thinly disguised instrument for advancing nationalistic goals and, more insidiously, for their individual and collective self-affirmation. There is a huge industry of American political and foreign policy commentators who love to prance around together flamboyantly condemning the rights abuses of other people's governments, while spending very little time and energy condemning abuses by their own.

One of the most vivid examples of this warped dynamic is the extremely disparate reaction from the American commentariat when journalists are imprisoned by Bad Foreign Governments as opposed to their own. For seven years, the US imprisoned an al-Jazeera cameraman, Sami al-Haj, at Guantánamo with no charges and spent most of that time interrogating him not about al-Qaida, but about al-Jazeera. With very few exceptions, American media figures failed even to mention, let alone condemn, the due process-free imprisonment of this journalist by their own government. The same silence characterized their reaction to the imprisonment of other Muslim journalists over the last decade by the US government.

By very stark contrast, when Iran imprisoned the Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi on espionage charges before releasing her five months after her arrest, countless American journalists and self-styled human rights advocates in the media were so very proud of their bold denunciation of the distant Iranian regime, turning the Saberi case into a cause celebre. Exactly the same thing happened with the 2009 conviction and imprisonment by North Korea of American journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling: American journalists so courageously condemned the tyranny of North Korea.

Fixating on the rights abuses of distant governments while largely ignoring those committed by one's own does not only demonstrate the glaring insincerity of the purported beliefs. Far worse, it is an abdication of one's primary duty as a journalist and as a citizen: to oppose, first and foremost, the bad acts of one's own government. Noam Chomsky put this best when asked why he spends the bulk of his time on the crimes of his own government (and its client states) rather than on America's enemies:

"My own concern is primarily the terror and violence carried out by my own state, for two reasons. For one thing, because it happens to be the larger component of international violence. But also for a much more important reason than that: namely, I can do something about it. So even if the US was responsible for 2% of the violence in the world instead of the majority of it, it would be that 2% I would be primarily responsible for. And that is a simple ethical judgment. That is, the ethical value of one's actions depends on their anticipated and predictable consequences. It is very easy to denounce the atrocities of someone else. That has about as much ethical value as denouncing atrocities that took place in the 18th century."

An eagerness to condemn abuses by foreign governments while largely ignoring one's own is not merely cowardly, though it is that. And it's not merely an abdication of the prime journalistic duty, though it is that, too. Worst of all, it's the media behavior that most effectively bolsters state propaganda, as it signals to the citizenry: human rights violations and civil liberties assaults are something those Bad Foreign Governments over there do, but not your own.

I would take more seriously all of this very inspirational, newfound worry about Ecuadorian press freedoms and Russian free speech rights on the part of Western media figures if they evinced any similar interest in infringements and abuses by their own governments and their allies: ones much more difficult, though much more consequential, to oppose.



Tarka the Duck
22nd August 2012, 20:33
Hello Nickolai

I heard today about the case of Aliaksandr Barankov, who is in prison in Ecuador under threat of extradition to Belarus, where he would be likely to receive the death penalty. The news report I heard had a definite flavour of "let's hope Ecuador shows the same morality in the case of this - in the west - unknown man as it has for the high profile Assange". I felt there was a hint of an accusation of hypocrisy - and I'd be interested to hear your viewpoint, and that of other members.

QUITO, Ecuador (AP) — Less than a year ago, an Ecuadorean judge denied a request to extradite Aliaksandr Barankov to Belarus, the former Soviet bloc nation whose president has been nicknamed "Europe's last dictator."
But now, the former financial crimes investigator is in imminent danger of losing his political refugee status and being sent home, where he says he could be killed because he unearthed corruption at the highest levels of government.
Barankov's fate could be decided as early as Tuesday, less than a week after Ecuador granted political asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, painting itself a proud haven for the politically persecuted.
The Belarusian's case indicates that hospitality may be limited by geopolitics.
Prosecutors in Belarus accuse the 30-year-old Barankov of fraud and extortion. He calls the charges bogus, retribution for his having exposed a petroleum-smuggling ring involving senior officials of President Alexander Lukashenko's government, including relatives of the leader.
Barankov is backed by rights activists at home, where Lukashenko has ruled for 18 years by fixing elections, quashing free speech, jailing dissidents and keeping 80 percent of industry in state hands.

The whole story is here:

22nd August 2012, 21:11
hi Nikolai -- i read a lot of history, & , at different times in my life, i have written many letters for Amnesty International [against torture/for Human rights]

i honestly don't think there is a single country in this world in which gross violations of Human life, rights, & dignity have not been visited upon the people at one time or another

this can make a person very depressed about Humans


22nd August 2012, 21:50
Dear Kathie,

Thank you for informing me about Barankov. I have never heard about him and now I do. I am very sad about his situation and I hope that Ecuador will not extradict the guy.
As I just read in Kommersant (on-line edition), they say that Correa still have to decide. I hope he does the good thing.

Let's see, Kathy! I mean if Ecuador does extradict then all those slogans about whistleblowers and "Free Assange" is BS.

Warm regards,


22nd August 2012, 22:10
I agree, Wyn!

You see with the whole Assange thing there might be a tendency for all who in trouble to ask the asylum in Ecuador. We will see.

Lukashenko thing is a difficult theme. Many opinions here. Definitely he is hard ruler but life there is easier than in Russia if you ask me. How do I know? People go there on vacations, people go their for products and to enjoy the nature. My neibor just returned from Belarus where he stayed in a pension house. He came back very excited. Clean cities and towns, cheaper products of better quality and without GMO, people are kinder though poorer. In fact one of the friends of mine sold a flat in Saint-Pete and bought three times bigger flat in Minsk, has job and likes it. Doesn't want to come back. Belarus shops are very popular here, since they sell the goods same quality and made according to the same recepts as in the old USSR...
Though, on the other hand, Minsk bombers investigation put many here in shock. Very suspicious. Some people don't like him here, but we know that in Belarus they call hin 'batka' (daddy).

Back to the topic: I want to write to Assange but don't know how to do it? Anybody help?


Tarka the Duck
23rd August 2012, 08:38
I want to write to Assange but don't know how to do it? Anybody help?

Maybe through FreeAssange.org?


23rd August 2012, 09:50
Thank you, Kathie!

23rd August 2012, 20:26

It's kind of disappointing since I left on this site a comment a concerning the Barankov and somehow it disappeared.


23rd August 2012, 21:03
With all my love and respect to all of you here, i don't get it with the Barankov thing linked to Assange.

So what now every one that is being persecuted is going to run away to Ecuador, and if Ecuador doesn't grant them all asylum, without studying their cases further, it means that the mainstream media was correct all along, and that Correa is a meanie, and Assange a Phony (using words to stay at the save wavelength of the MSM)

If it is true that Barankov is innocent, (and i am not saying he isn't....but it seems like only countries that the present 'world police' doesn't approve of have an 'innocent' person being persecuted) then i don't see why Ecuador wouldn't give him asylum.

Correa really seems to love doing everything through courts, from getting a court ruling saying his country owes the world bank nothing, to suing journalists so that both him and them have a 3rd party deciding whose words are true...to this Assange thing now.

But if he does give asylum to all, then watch the jokes and 'reputation' South America had for 'harboring fugitives' suddenly come back. Really looks like someone is trying hard to create a lose/lose only situation for many Latin countries at the moment.

Why doesn't or didn't Barankov ask for asylum in England? it is a better life and more orderly than all South American countries put together...

23rd August 2012, 22:04
Thank you, Marsila!

I also think it was strange that Barankov seeked asylum in Ecuador, I am questioned why not in the States keeping in mind the relationship between the States and Belarus. Especially two years ago.
But let's see. I hope that Correa will help this guy for obviously he is in danger.
But then again, what do I know about the real story of Barankov. There is his version of the situation, the other one is Lukashenko.
But whatever he doesn't deserve death.


23rd August 2012, 22:26
But whatever he doesn't deserve death.


You are welcome, and totally agree with this part/

Still wonder his choice of country of asylum, when England was even closer to him.

24th August 2012, 01:50
Excellent article Nickolai. I have been quite depressed by some of the stuff coming out of the Guardian recently - some of which I believe is due to professional rivalry between journalists. There is also the fact that Assange was to have given 'exclusive' rights to the Guardian of the original Wikileaks material and then went back on his word and gave it to three papers. Also the password to the encrypted files was published by the Guardian about which I believe Assange was going to sue though I don't know whether that happened. To be fair, from what I have read Assange is paranoid (perhaps understandably) and very difficult to work with.

24th August 2012, 08:57
Hi all!

Since I am subscriber of Free Assange Group on Facebook, I have received the news on Barabkov case.
That is the article concerning Barankov on Herald Sun Australia ( you can find it here: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/breaking-news/ecuador-respects-belarusian-mans-rights/story-e6frf7k6-1226456720577)

Ecuador ‘respects Belarusian man's rights'

ECUADOR says it will treat an extradition request from Belarus' government for a former financial crimes investigator with the same respect for human rights which guided it in the case of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

"Ecuador will put the emphasis on not extraditing a citizen whose life is at risk, from the death penalty or life in prison," Deputy Foreign Minister Marco Albuja told reporters.

"Less than a year ago, an Ecuadorian judge denied a request to extradite Aliaksandr Barankov to the former Soviet bloc country whose president, Alexander Lukashenko, has been nicknamed "Europe's last dictator".

Barankov, 30, says he could be killed if sent home because he unearthed corruption at the highest levels of government.

A high court judge's decision on a new extradition request is due in the coming days.

President Rafael Correa would then have the last word.

Barankov's case came under scrutiny when Ecuador announced last week it was granting Assange asylum because it deemed he ran the risk of being unfairly tried by the United States and possibly facing the death sentence.

Just before Lukashenko spent two days in Ecuador in June on an official visit, however, Barankov was arrested and jailed.

The former police captain is accused of fraud and extortion in Belarus, accusations he calls trumped up after he uncovered an oil-smuggling ring in which relatives of Lukashenko were involved.

Told of Albuja's statement, Barankov was hopeful.

"I want to say that this protects not just my life, but also protects the lives of my parents," Barankov said by phone from prison, adding his father had been hospitalised with heart problems.

Asked earlier on Wednesday about Barankov's case, Correa said, "We obviously reject any attack on human rights, (any) political persecution."

But he said he would not comment on the Barankov case until Judge Carlos Ramirez of the National Court of Justice ruled.

A court official said a Ramirez ruling was expected "in coming days."

Barankov is backed by rights activists in his homeland, where Lukashenko has ruled for 18 years by fixing elections, quashing free speech, jailing dissidents and keeping 80 per cent of industry in state hands.

At a news conference on Wednesday, Correa said Ecuador was open to dialogue with Britain and Sweden over Assange, who sought refuge in Ecuador's London embassy on June 19 to avoid extradition to Sweden to face questioning over allegations of sexual misconduct."

All be well,



24th August 2012, 09:42
Thank you Nickolai for actually going and getting an answer from the people concerned themselves, before accusing first!

2nd September 2012, 18:52

For all of those people who got concerned about the Barankov case.
The Ecuador has prolonged the asylym for 2 more years.

That's great news.!

Tarka the Duck
2nd September 2012, 18:54
Thanks for that update, Nickolai - I'm so pleased for him and his girlfriend :cool: