Posts Tagged ‘campaigning’
Two more foreign banks halt cooperation with Belarus after German Chancellor Angela Merkel tells Index on Censorship and Free Belarus Now that she would intervene to stop Deutsche Bank from selling government bonds to Europe’s last dictatorship.
Index on Censorship and Free Belarus Now welcome the decision of banks BNP Paribas and Deutsche Bank to stop selling the government bonds of Belarus, a country known as Europe’s last dictatorship. Deutsche Bank’s decision came after the launch of our international petition signed by the families of the political prisoners and NGOs as well as a series of protests. The campaign’s success is testimony to the success of the organisations in encouraging the high-level involvement of European politicians such as British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg in condemning Belarus’s human rights violations.
Irina Bogdanova, sister of jailed Belarusian presidential candidate Andrei Sannikov raised Deutsche Bank’s involvement in two bonds sales directly with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Merkel told Bogdanova that she would call Deutsche Bank and raise the issue with them directly. Bogdanova said:
“It’s outrageous that a bank used by German families has sold the government bonds of the dictatorship that has imprisoned my brother for no other crime than standing in an election. Chancellor Merkel promised me she would speak to Deutsche Bank. I’m delighted that Deutsche Bank will no longer work for Europe’s last dictatorship after our campaign.”
Deutsche Bank were involved in a syndicate alongside British bank Royal Bank of Scotland, Russian bank Sberbank and French bank BNP Paribas that sold $1bn Belarusian government bonds at 8.75 per cent (due August 2015) in August 2010, followed by a further issue of $850m of bonds in January 2011 (due January 2016) at a higher rate of 8.95 per cent.
Experts calculated these interest rates were twice the rate that would have been levied by the IMF, but the IMF would have required structural reforms. Governments including the British government have opposed IMF involvement until the country releases political prisoners jailed after the last presidential election.
Index on Censorship and Free Belarus Now were particularly concerned that even after the oppressive post-election crackdown in which seven of the nine presidential candidates were arrested and 43 political prisoners were held, the bond sale by Deutsche Bank continued.
Mike Harris, head of advocacy at Index on Censorship, said:
“Belarus’s financial crisis is so severe last week the Central Bank was forced to auction government property including TVs and cardboard boxes. Deutsche Bank and RBS who sold Belarusian government bonds in January were propping up a dictatorship. We’re delighted they have both pulled out leaving Lukashenko with few options other than to release his political prisoners.”
He added: “Only Sberbank is left from the original consortium of four banks. We will keep campaigning until they commit to not doing business with Lukashenko.”
Index on Censorship was the first NGO to report allegations of torture in Belarus on 20 December last year. The campaign by Index on Censorship and Free Belarus Now is continuing to place pressure on Sberbank, the last remaining bank involved in the bond sale.
For more information please contact Mike Harris at Index on Censorship mikeindexoncensorshiporg or +44 207 324 2534 / +44 7974 838 468
Following on from my article in Forefront magazine on trade unions and social media, I’ve been advising Unions21 the leading think-tank, on how trade unions you use social media to improve their public image. You can read the publication ‘The Future for Union Image’ online.
As Director Dan Whittle says:
Unions have not had such a high media profile for years.
More than half the population backed the aims of the March 26th March for the Alternative according to YouGov – but a third of people still see unions as old fashioned.
So what can unions do? These are three of the ‘tough love’ ideas our contributors have put forward:
Perform a social media audit
Facebook, Twitter and blogs are ever more important sources of information – and as trust in government, public institutions and almost everything else declines, people increasingly rely on their friends or even celebrities for their news and opinions.
Mike Harris recommends unions should perform a social media audit to identify their most highly networked members and involve them in delivering their communications. High profile supporters can be used to attract new interest online and well crafted online ‘asks’ can be used to build support and membership.
Drop the jargon
Writer and trainer Paul Richards argues that trade unionism, like every other walk of life, has developed its own slang, jargon and insiders-only language, every bit as impenetrable as polari, doctors’ slang, cockney rhyming slang, computer hackers’ slang… He reminds us that talking about collective bargaining, constructive dismissal and transfers of undertakings is language impenetrable to most people and off-putting and alienating to many.
Please do contact me, for an informal consultation on how your union can improve its image using social media.
I have recently worked with documentary Tracy Worcester to raise awareness of her film ‘Pig Business’. One method of profile-raising has been to engage leading actor Dominic West in the campaign and help him write about Tracy’s campaign and individuals can do. In an article in the Daily Mail, with help from MJR Harris, Dominic outlined his concerns over industrial factory farms:
When public figures speak out about animal welfare issues, their views tend to be received with weary sighs. But the way we treat our livestock is not just a moral question. Industrial farming is making us ill.
Across Europe, in countries including Germany, Romania and Britain too, industrial pork production is on the rise. It is subsidised by our taxes, and yet no politician has ever asked us if we want it.
Thankfully, people power is on the march. Last Wednesday, I joined some of the locals who are objecting to plans for an industrial pig farm near the village of Foston in Derbyshire.
Harnessing Celebrity Support: an IFEX interview with Mike Harris
This was originally published as a briefing on campaigning for partner agencies of the International Freedom of Expression eXchange: The global network for free expression.
England’s libel laws have been condemned by the UN Human Rights Committee for seriously hampering free expression, and for good reason. Among other major issues, the legislation doesn’t put the burden of proof on claimants to show statements are indeed false; there is no cap on the amount one can sue for; and there is scant mention of the public interest in the legal text. It should come as no surprise that foreign corporations and businessmen choose to sue for libel in the United Kingdom (UK), where they’re likely to get a favourable result. The practice is so common it has its own moniker: “libel tourism.”
It should also come as no surprise that UK-based IFEX member Index on Censorship has launched an all-out war on the anti-free expression aspects of the legislation. With celebrities enlisted and Twitter employed as its most powerful weapon, the organisation teamed up with English PEN and Sense About Science to launch the Libel Reform Campaign in December 2009 (http://www.libelreform.org).
Included among the campaigns supporters are comedians Stephen Fry and Shazia Mirza, fiction writer Monica Ali, physician and renowned columnist Dr. Ben Goldacre, and poet and novelist Sir Andrew Motion.
“Comedians understand freedom of expression, a lot of comedians use risqué comedy so it’s a very easy issue to get them interested in,” says Index on Censorship’s Michael Harris, the public affairs manager of the libel reform campaign. When looking for big names to get behind libel reform, the groups focused on those who were most likely to be affected by repressive libel legislation: writers, editors, artists, broadcasters and even scientists whose research could “libel” corporations.
Organisations should choose celebrities who are truly passionate about the cause, says Harris, but they should use their time strategically and be careful not to ask too many small favours. Instead, organisations should prioritise their promotional needs so that celebrities can focus on the big, important events.
“You need to feel it out, get an idea of how much time they have to give,” says Harris. “You don’t want to ask too much.”
Using Twitter as part of the campaign ensured that celebrities could have a big impact with a miniscule time investment. Big name supporters like Fry and others have sent tweets to their followers that encouraged them to go to the libel reform website, attend fundraising events and sign the libel reform petition. By linking to reports or columns, the celebrity tweeters can also educate their fans about the issue. Through piggy-backing on the fan base of celebrity twitter accounts, the campaign has managed to attract around 50,000 supporters, a level of public support that wouldn’t have been possible without the social networking tool, says Harris.
Not only can Twitter reach hundreds of thousands in a matter of seconds, it isn’t confined by geography. “At our campaign events, we’ve spoken to people from all over the country,” says Harris. “A lot of the times we’ve been quite London-centric in our campaigns but with Twitter, users can be anywhere in the world.”
Twitter has its drawbacks, however. People receiving tweets are often on the go and may not be able to concentrate on much more than a single tweet’s 140-character limit. If your organisation needs people to devote their time and attention by, for example, writing a letter or attending parliament, Twitter may not be the best promotional tool. Instead, Harris says, “Twitter is very good at getting people to do a single action – click here, think about this, do this.”
Harris also underlines the importance of hosting events where tweeters, bloggers and technophobe free-expression advocates alike can meet in person. When fellow supporters meet each other, they become further galvanised and are more likely to work together on the web. “People will pass on messages far more readily if they have that real, social connection with the person who is posting something,” says Harris. Recognising this, the campaign hosted a series of “pub discussions” that brought together long-time free expression activists, tweeters and new recruits. “People get a stronger emotional involvement with the campaign when they meet other advocates,” says Harris.
To compensate for Twitter’s disproportionate focus on the young and tech-savvy, the campaign also employed different methods to reach out to non-tweeters. Celebrities were asked to publish opinion articles in major newspapers that outlined the necessity of libel reform (sometimes these columns were ghost-written by the organisation). Public figures on board with the campaign talked about libel reform in their blogs, on the radio and on TV. The campaign also held several events, including a panel discussion on how the laws impact documentary films, and a star-studded comedy evening that raised £15,000 pounds (approx. US$23,000).
Thanks in no small part to the work of Index on Censorship, English PEN and Sense About Science, England’s three major political parties now support libel reform, and in early April, the Justice Secretary Jack Straw said the government would change the libel laws. Among other reforms, he promised that claimants can’t argue that damages have been “multiplied” when a statement is re-published on websites, blogs and picked up by other publications; procedural changes will address the “libel tourism” problem and action will be taken to somewhat reduce the heavy legal cost on defendants. Many more reforms are required to ensure England’s legislation no longer puts free expression rights in jeopardy at home and abroad, but these recent developments mark major progress. Look out those hoping to silence detractors in London courts: comedians, activists, writers and tweeters aren’t about to back down.