Saskia Rowley
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By Robert Carey The culture in the Catholic Church of covering up the sexual abuse of minors by clergy has come into sharp focus in Australia during the recent trial of its cardinal, George Pell. Pell boasted of having implemented best practice in the Church’s response to sexual abuse in the Church. When he was Archbishop of Melbourne (1996–2001), he introduced the “Melbourne Response”, a set of policies for the compensation of abuse victims. The model is now discredited, with some saying the Melbourne Response was Pell’s way of ensuring the Church’s handling of sexual abuse complaints was not transparent and that any response to victims remained firmly under the control of the Church and of Pell himself. 

Berlin (Germany) 2020

At the 70th Berlinale International Film Festival held February 20 – March 1, 2020, the Ecumenical Jury, appointed by INTERFILM and SIGNIS, awarded its Prize in the International Competition to the film Sheytan vojud nadarad (There is no Evil) directed by Mohammad Rasoulof (Iran, 2020).

The World Press Freedom Index, compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), suggests that the coming decade will be decisive for the future of journalism. The 2020 edition of the Index, which evaluates the situation for journalists in 180 countries and territories, identifies five converging crises: geopolitical (due to the aggressiveness of authoritarian regimes); technological (due to a lack of democratic guarantees); democratic (due to polarisation and repressive policies); trust (due to aggravated suspicion of the media); and economic (impoverishing quality journalism). These are currently compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Even faced with COVID-19, despotic regimes will stop at nothing. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has expressed its concern at some Middle Eastern governments taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to increase state censorship and to clamp down on the dissemination of news and information.

[vc_row css_animation="" row_type="row" use_row_as_full_screen_section="no" type="full_width" angled_section="no" text_align="left" background_image_as_pattern="without_pattern"][vc_column][vc_column_text]Civil liberties are most fragile during times of crisis. As conflict the world over has shown, digital communications infrastructures can easily be used to censor, to silence, to monitor, and ultimately to sanction. In China, WeChat and Weibo are extremely popular. China introduced new laws and hired hundreds of people to monitor content on these platforms, forcing netizens to be vigilant and to self-censor. The Chinese government claims that monitoring cyberspace betters society, but many believe that the authorities have an ulterior motive: suppressing alternative views and dissent in public and in private.

Trade relations must not be allowed to threaten hard-won universal rights. The United Kingdom appears to be trying to wriggle out of applying the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) to its post-Brexit existence as a non-member of the European Union (EU).

Collecting personal data for the best of reasons – such as tackling the coronavirus pandemic – has triggered a wave of misgivings. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (www.eff.org) has responded to growing concerns with a statement (10 March 2020) urging “a balance between collective good and civil liberties.” The EFF statement says: