Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Galina Arapova - defending human rights in Russia

Here are some extracts from a speech given last week by Russian human rights lawyer Galina Arapova, who was in Washington DC accepting the 2016 Human Rights Award from the International Bar Association (IBA).

"Recognition in one’s profession means a great deal," said Arapova, addressing the IBA's annual conference. "Needless to say it carries even more weight when we are dealing with work that is of significant public interest and involves a heightened degree of danger. Defending human rights is exactly such work in many regions of the world, including Russia. But I implore you to keep on doing it. It is of paramount importance - it’s not just years of hard work, it’s both victories and disappointments, threats, solidarity, trust in the values we defend.

Arapova: "Keep on working, keep on hoping"
"How successful we are depends a great deal on the independence of the judiciary and necessitates respect for the rule of law among the relevant ruling bodies and authorities and society in general. To talk openly and to defend those voices brave enough to raise issues of public concern, to be critical about the current state of affairs in Russia, requires both courage and hope that things can change, can improve for the better.

"You probably expected me to talk about the repressive regime, about the negative role of propaganda and censorship, about the loss of our freedom, about 350 journalists killed in Russia in just the last 20 years for freely speaking their minds and whose deaths were not properly investigated, about Internet blocking, politically motivated cases, restoration of criminal defamation.

"I can talk about these issues for hours, with examples and arguments, but I won’t. I am not going to dramatize the situation, as we do our best in the current environment and are not going to quit. I believe that freedom of expression and media diversity and independence are values that are worth defending everywhere because they are at the very core of a democratic society. In some countries it just so happens that this defense is quite a bit more difficult than in others. And human right lawyers are just crazy enough to keep working, to keep hoping, despite the multitude of difficulties they face and the obstacles they must constantly overcome."

Congratulations to Arapova and her team on receiving due recognition for their courage and conviction. Her award was reported world wide by a single news organisation, the web site of Voronezh-based 36on.ru.

The next round of qualifying games for the upcoming state- and Fifa-led propaganda fest that will be Russia 2018 takes place early next month. Please avoid watching these games.

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