BHHRG

About BHHRG

The British Helsinki Human Rights Group monitors human rights and democracy in the 57 OSCE member states from the United States to Central Asia.
* Monitoring the conduct of elections in OSCE member states.
* Examining issues relating to press freedom and freedom of speech
* Reporting on conditions in prisons and psychiatric institutions

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The Referendum Campaign in Montenegro
HITS: 3475 | 12-01-2007, 16:36 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Montenegro , Politics, Elections

BHHRG visited Montenegro in the pre-referendum period to observe the conduct of the campaign. Large billboards urging people to vote ‘Da’ (Yes) were plastered all over the scruffy capital, Podgorica. It took some time to find any ‘No’ posters although there were many more in coastal areas, for example, and the north of the country. The ‘Yes’ campaign concentrated on Montenegro’s historical past and harking back to the republic’s noble ancestry, the authorities have erected large statues of the country’s last monarch, King Nikola, astride his horse - one stands in Podgorica while another was delivered to the depressed industrial town of Nikšić shortly before the poll.
Apart from the daily Dan[1], all newspapers in Montenegro (e.g. Pobeda, Vijesti and Republika) were vocally pro-independence. Television coverage was even less diverse although the authorities claimed that independently owned Montana and Elbig TV were somehow immune from bias. The most egregious propaganda vehicle was Montenegrin state television, Television Crna Gora (TVCG). It took many forms, mostly directed to Montenegro’s brief period of independence: grainy black and white film of King Nikola, his courtiers and family was played and replayed; the new/old crimson Montengrin flag embossed with the Njegoš coat of arms fluttered above rallies of enthusiastic citizens and, members of the Academy of Sciences solemnly took possession of sets of leather bound tomes containing a recently completed history of Montenegro.

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The Election Campaign in Belarus (Continuation)
HITS: 2256 | 10-02-2006, 18:08 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Belarus, Foreign media, Politics

The Group’s six different observers who visited Belarus during the campaign were struck by its quietness. Apart from the large posters and electronic screens urging people to vote (when they weren’t showing adverts for commercial products), there was no evidence of an election campaign.
Occasionally, a handbill or small opposition sticker was sighted but nothing of significance. At opposition rallies handbills, stickers and newspapers were handed out to participants and observers alike.
Alexander Lukashenko chose not to campaign. He did not use the television and radio time allocated to him nor the official newspaper campaigning slots. He offered them to his opponents.
The opposition candidates refused that offer but did get their time on television and radio plus the publication of their programmes in the state-run media. Dr. Kozulin chose to use one of television slots to make allegations about the President’s private life. (It is well known that he is separated from his wife.) He also ripped up a photograph of the President on camera. Whether Belarussian voters appreciated these personal jibes and gestures is open to doubt. Certainly when Mr. Lukashenko was asked at his post-election press conference if he intended to sue Kozulin for libel, he remarked, “Isn’t getting 2% of the vote punishment enough?” and added that he had no powers of prosecution, only the power of pardon.

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The Election Campaign in Belarus (Continuation)
HITS: 2002 | 10-02-2006, 18:08 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Belarus, Foreign media, Politics

The Group’s six different observers who visited Belarus during the campaign were struck by its quietness. Apart from the large posters and electronic screens urging people to vote (when they weren’t showing adverts for commercial products), there was no evidence of an election campaign.
Occasionally, a handbill or small opposition sticker was sighted but nothing of significance. At opposition rallies handbills, stickers and newspapers were handed out to participants and observers alike.
Alexander Lukashenko chose not to campaign. He did not use the television and radio time allocated to him nor the official newspaper campaigning slots. He offered them to his opponents.
The opposition candidates refused that offer but did get their time on television and radio plus the publication of their programmes in the state-run media. Dr. Kozulin chose to use one of television slots to make allegations about the President’s private life. (It is well known that he is separated from his wife.) He also ripped up a photograph of the President on camera. Whether Belarussian voters appreciated these personal jibes and gestures is open to doubt. Certainly when Mr. Lukashenko was asked at his post-election press conference if he intended to sue Kozulin for libel, he remarked, “Isn’t getting 2% of the vote punishment enough?” and added that he had no powers of prosecution, only the power of pardon.

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Ireland Votes Again
HITS: 2036 | 5-06-2003, 07:37 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Ireland , Elections, Analyzing

The ground having been laid, the way was open for a campaign to take place in which the Yes campaign had massive predominance over the No. Literally the whole of establishment Ireland weighed in to support the Yes campaign against the No. The No camp, by contrast, was run essentially by citizens’ groups.
The imbalance was clearest in the funding given to each side. The Yes probably spent 20 times more than the No: its total expenditure was reportedly at least €1.68 million.[1] Against this, the No campaign spent approximately €170,500. The Yes figure included the following expenditure: Fianna Fáil, the governing party, spent €500,000[2]; IBEC, the Irish Business and Employers Confederation, €500,000; Fine Gael, the opposition party, spent €150,000, also for a Yes; the Progressive Democrats, a governing party, spent €125,000; The Irish Alliance for Europe, €100,000; the Irish Farmers’ Association, €150,000; the International Financial Services Centre, €25,000; the Labour Party €25,000; the Dublin Chamber of Commerce, €100,000. On top of this, the Government of Ireland spent €750,000 and Irish Euro MP, Pat Cox, president of the European Parliament, spent c. €80,000 on a Yes campaign bus. By contrast, the “No to Nice” campaign spent no more than € 120,000.

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Swedish General Election 2002: Immigration and the EU
HITS: 1899 | 30-10-2002, 04:37 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Sweden , Elections, Analyzing

The question of future inflows of people from EU accession-states likely to join the EU in 2004/05 was avoided in the campaign. From this Group’s experience and recent opinion polls in candidate countries like Poland or Slovakia, Sweden may expect a marked increase in arrivals from its neighbors across the Baltic. Up to 7 million Poles are expected to seek work in the existing EU states after Poland’s accession (regardless of any rules limiting free movement of labour which might be conditions of entry). Migration on this scale cannot help but be a socio-economic issue in the politics of the existing member states like Sweden.
Left-wing parties like the Marxist KPML (r), which has a strong municipal presence in Gothenburg also find themselves largely invisible in the established media even if they would share the established media’s revulsion at the Swedish Democrats’ views. On the question of immigration, the extra-Parliamentary left seems divided between those who see accepting an influx of foreigners and defending their right to maintain their own identity as an act of solidarity, and those who fear that wages and social conditions will be eroded by the import of a “reserve army of labour” as Marx himself might have characterized it.

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Swedish General Election 2002: Media Coverage
HITS: 2035 | 30-10-2002, 04:32 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Sweden , Media World, Foreign media

Parties which are outside the centre-left/centre-right consensus, even though not necessarily particularly hard left or right find it difficult to get access to the media whether in its news coverage or advertising space. The high cost of newspaper and journal distribution through the PressByran network which appears to have an effective monopoly on retail outlets for news and current affairs makes marginal viewpoints still more marginal in Sweden.
The Swedish Democrats complain that their attempts to place advertisements have been boycotted by the news media. According to the Swedish Democrats some media refuse their materials point blank, while others invoke their need to show solidarity with an informal media “blackout” of the “extremists”. Private media may have the right to pick and choose whom they permit to advertise, but when nationwide public organizations like Swebus choose to provide a platform for some but not other legal parties then the fairness of the campaign may be drawn into doubt.

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