The World Bank‘s policies for land privatization and concentration, have paved the way for corporations from Wall Street to Singapore to take upwards of 80 million hectares of land from rural communities across the world in the past few years, according to a press release from National Family Farm Coalition.
Giulia Franchi from the Italian-based Campaign for the Reform of the World Bank (Campagna per la Riforma della Banca Mondiale) said during a teleconference with reporters that the principles the bank is promoting, (RAI), is an attempt to justify and support transnational corporations’ attempts to grab farmland.
“It’s an attempt to make it look like a responsible deal, as something that can be done in a transparent way with the support of the local community, and something that will improve local communities. But there’s no way the expropriation of people’s land, however it’s done, can be a responsible deal.”
Franchi said corporations are using diversified financial vehicles such as pension funds, commercial banks, and investment banks, as well as foreign governments, to acquire millions of hectares of land worldwide for producing food and agrifuels for international export.
“This is all being done with the backing of international financial institutions, and most of all, of the World Bank.”
Franchi said the World Bank for decades has been promoting land concentration and privatization policies.
“It has been promoting land titling programs in many countries in the world, which has transformed customary and traditional land rights into titles which can be marketed, traded, and sold.”
As the World Bank presents the global takeover of farmland as the promotion of responsible agriculture, Via Campesina and its international allies are calling upon the bank to comply with the Extra Territorial Human Rights Obligations of States.
“The bank cannot continue to act in full impunity as it has up to now,” Franchi said.
Bob St. Peter directs Food For Maine’s Future and is a board member of the National Family Farm Coalition. He describes himself as a small-scale family farmer. He said he and his family rent, borrow, and lease about 4 acres of land for largely subsistence and small, direct-market production.
“Coming at this as a new farmer in the United States, and looking out to what’s about to happen over the next 20 years, there is set to be a very large transfer of productive farm land in this country. The older generation of farmers are set to retire and we have not been developing the farmers that are going to be able to replace them.”
St. Peter said many farmers are in debt and likely will sell their land and equipment to have some money as they retire and some money to leave to their children.
“We’re in the position now of having to stave off what is likely to be a very significant rush for farm land in this country. Those of us who would like to farm the land”are not in the position to purchase it at the prices that the older generation is going to need to get themselves out of debt to secure their retirement. There aren’t enough land trust or philanthropic dollars to make up the difference. So, what is likely to happen is there will be investment groups–and we’re starting to see this already—speculators as well as corporations purchasing these farm lands.”
St. Peter said this is going to exacerbate problems related to industrialized agriculture. He calls for not only low interest loans, but a transfer of wealth of some kind so new farmers have access to land without repeating the cycle of chronic debt where they have to depend on corporations just to stay in business.
“We don’t have a plan for that yet, but if we don’t stave off the farmland grab that is happening in other parts of the world, we’re likely to see that happen here.”
St. Peter calls for local food enthusiasts to look into the systemic issues involved with their cause.
“There’s been this change in the food industry. There’s been this political economy established to favor corporate agribusiness and that model has been replicated around the world. So the small-scale farmer —in Maine I am literally competing in my local community with cheap imported food from all over the world, produced in conditions we don’t generally support.”
He said people who are only focused on their local food system would be well served by looking deeper and wider.
“(They should look at) how the global food industry manipulates markets and uses international financial institutions and trade organizations to basically pit us against each other and undercut and undermine all of us. There’s a situation in Mexico, for example, of people being displaced from their land because of dumping. It also happens in our country, in our local communities. That’s why we have a local food movement in the first place. It’s because that’s been taken from us and we need to put it back. But we can’t do that without understanding both the solidarity aspects and the way the political economy works.”
Rafael Alegria, coordinator for Via Campesina for Central America said during the tele-press-conference that in Honduras and other countries in the region the re-concentration of the control of land under the auspices of the government, the transnational corporations, and the World Bank, has displaced small producers and family farmers.
“The situation in the countryside in Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador is similar. It’s very grave poverty in the countryside but this does not only affect the countryside but also the urban areas.”
Alegria said the US used free trade agreements to dump many tons of rice on the Honduran market, making it impossible for local producers to sell at a reasonable price. (See Oxfam briefing paper, A Raw Deal For Rice Under DR-CAFTA)
He said this is causing serious agrarian and rural conflicts in Honduras.
“In the region of Bajo Aguan on the Atlantic coast of Honduras, large numbers of campesinos have been hurt and killed in conflicts with a large land owner named Miguel Facusse, who owns agribusiness firm Quimicas Dinant. This company has been in the sites of the World Bank. The World Bank has been trying to give them $30 million in loans. He and Reynaldo Canales—these two men in private industry—have taken over almost all of the arable land. They have displaced thousands of small producers and family farmers and replaced their diverse cultivation methods with monocultures of African palm for export.”
Facusse makes his fortunes by producing palm oil used for snack foods.
Alegria said, “We’ve been able to document that Mexican corporations and private interests from other neighboring countries, as well as the United States, have taken over large tracts of land in Honduras. That’s why on the April 17th Via Campesina decided to do an international struggle to highlight the problem of land grabbing.”
He said that on that date campesinos and small family farmers in Honduras decided to do a land reclamation.
“They reclaimed 12,500 hectares of publicly own land that is now being taken over by private corporations and private interests. But the government and private interests have been actively evicting farmers and farm workers from these land reclamations, and today (April 23) there was a predawn attack by private guards from the sugar company.”
As a result of the attack, the leader of Movimiento Campesino de San Manuel (MOCSAN) is hanging between life in death in a hospital in San Pedro Sula , said Alegria.
“The minister of agrarian reform and the minister of security and the Honduran president Porfirio Lobo Sosa refused to talk with Via Campesina and the Honduran campesino movement. So, we declare that those government representatives are responsible for all of the bloodshed.”
Alegria said Via Campesina in Central America denounces the media campaign to defame his leadership and the leadership of all of the local and regional campesino movements in Honduras.
“We demand the World Bank stop promoting land grabbing being done by private interest. We call on the World Bank to support comprehensive land reform strategies like the one we put forward before the legislature of Honduras in October 2011.”
Alegria said there has been no legislative progress. He asked that food sovereignty activists around the world increase their solidarity with campesinos in Central America and all those who are struggling in Honduras. He said in the 1970s the Catholic Church was in solidarity with peasants fighting for land reform, but that more recently they have not received any kind of support from the official churches, either the Catholic, the Evangelical, or Protestant.
“We’ve only received support from the very small community-based churches from the Protestant and Evangelical side.”
Alegria said the land reclamations threaten monopoly capitalist’s interests in the northern areas of Honduras. He said powerful people in the banking industry and large landowners on the northern coast of Honduras have ties to the owners of the country’s newspapers , such as Diario del Tiempo.
“Those high level business interests and the owners of the main newspapers, Diario La Prensa and The Herald and Tiempo, they all work together. Their interests are entwined. This media campaign is one where they attempt to defame my character, painting me as if I were a terrorist. This is try to undermine my credibility with the people. They are very conservative business leaders who are really only interested in making profits and increasing their wealth but they don’t see the dire poverty of the family farmers, the campesinos, and farm workers in Honduras.”
He said large corporations want to control not only their land but also their forests, mining industry, and water.
“It’s really grave for our country. The large-scale foreign investment interests are pressuring the government and the government’s response is to put up for public auction all of our natural resources for sale to the highest bidder in order to cover both our internal and external debt. The external debt for a small country like Honduras is already is more than $4 billion and the internal debt is $50 billion.”
In terms of press freedom the USA languishes in 32nd place and given the level of Paranoia Displayed by the current government it is likely to drop further.
Press Freedom Index 2013
|8||New Zealand||8,38||+5 (13)|
|16||Czech Republic||10,17||-2 (14)|
|18||Costa Rica||12,08||+1 (19)|
|25||Cape Verde||14,33||-16 (9)|
|29||United Kingdom||16,89||-1 (28)|
|32||United States||18,22||+15 (47)|
|38||El Salvador||22,86||-1 (37)|
|41||Papua New Guinea||22,97||-6 (35)|
|44||Trinidad and Tobago||23,12||+6 (50)|
|46||Burkina Faso||23,70||+22 (68)|
|50||South Korea||24,48||-6 (44)|
|52||South Africa||24,56||-10 (42)|
|58||Hong Kong||26,16||-4 (54)|
|61||Sierra Leone||26,35||+2 (63)|
|65||Central African Republic||26,61||-3 (62)|
|68||Bosnia and Herzegovina||26,86||-10 (58)|
|76||Republic of the Congo||28,20||+14 (90)|
|80||Dominican Republic||28,34||+15 (95)|
|90||East Timor||28,72||-4 (86)|
|94||Northern Cyprus||29,34||+8 (102)|
|96||Ivory Coast||29,77||+63 (159)|
|114||United Arab Emirates||33,49||-2 (112)|
|116||Republic of Macedonia||34,27||-22 (94)|
|124||South Sudan||36,20||-13 (111)|
|142||DR Congo||41,66||+3 (145)|
|162||Sri Lanka||56,59||+1 (163)|
|163||Saudi Arabia||56,88||-5 (158)|
|166||Equatorial Guinea||67,20||-5 (161)|
|178||North Korea||83,90||0 (178)|
After the “Arab springs” and other protest movements that prompted many rises and falls in last year’s index, the 2013 Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index marks a return to a more usual configuration.
The ranking of most countries is no longer attributable to dramatic political developments. This year’s index is a better reflection of the attitudes and intentions of governments towards media freedom in the medium or long term. The same three European countries that headed the index last year hold the top three positions again this year. For the third year running, Finland has distinguished itself as the country that most respects media freedom. It is followed by the Netherlands and Norway.
Although many criteria are considered, ranging from legislation to violence against journalists, democratic countries occupy the top of the index while dictatorial countries occupy the last three positions. Again it is the same three as last year – Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea.
“The Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders does not take direct account of the kind of political system but it is clear that democracies provide better protection for the freedom to produce and circulate accurate news and information than countries where human rights are flouted,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.
“In dictatorships, news providers and their families are exposed to ruthless reprisals, while in democracies news providers have to cope with the media’s economic crises and conflicts of interest. While their situation is not always comparable, we should pay tribute to all those who resist pressure whether it is aggressively focused or diffuse.”
Coinciding with the release of its 2013 Press Freedom Index, Reporters Without Borders is for the first time publishing an annual global “indicator” of worldwide media freedom. This new analytic tool measures the overall level of freedom of information in the world and the performance of the world’s governments in their entirety as regards this key freedom.
In view of the emergence of new technologies and the interdependence of governments and peoples, the freedom to produce and circulate news and information needs to be evaluated at the planetary as well as national level. Today, in 2013, the media freedom “indicator” stands at 3395, a point of reference for the years to come.
The indicator can also be broken down by region and, by means of weighting based on the population of each region, can be used to produce a score from zero to 100 in which zero represents total respect for media freedom. This produces a score of 17.5 for Europe, 30.0 for the Americas, 34.3 for Africa, 42.2 for Asia-Pacific and 45.3 for Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Despite the Arab springs, the Middle East and North Africa region comes last with 48.5.
The high number of journalists and netizens killed in the course of their work in 2012 (the deadliest year ever registered by Reporters Without Borders in its annual roundup), naturally had an a significant impact on the ranking of the countries where these murders took place, above all Somalia (175th, -11), Syria (176th, 0), Mexico (153rd, -4) and Pakistan (159th, -8).
From top to bottom
The Nordic countries have again demonstrated their ability to maintain an optimal environment for news providers. Finland (1st, 0), Netherlands (2nd, +1) and Norway (3rd, -2) have held on to the first three places. Canada (20th, -10) only just avoided dropping out of the top 20. Andorra (5th) and Liechtenstein (7th) have entered the index for the first time just behind the three leaders.
At the other end of the index, the same three countries as ever – Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea – occupy the last three places in the index. Kim Jong-un’s arrival at the head of the Hermit Kingdom has not in any way changed the regime’s absolute control of news and information. Eritrea (179th, 0), which was recently shaken by a brief mutiny by soldiers at the information ministry, continues to be a vast open prison for its people and lets journalists die in detention. Despite its reformist discourse, the Turkmen regime has not yielded an inch of its totalitarian control of the media.
For the second year running, the bottom three countries are immediately preceded by Syria (176th, 0), where a deadly information war is being waged, and Somalia (175th, -11), which has had a deadly year for journalists. Iran (174th, +1), China (173rd, +1), Vietnam (172nd, 0), Cuba (171st, -4), Sudan (170th, 0) and Yemen (169th, +2) complete the list of the ten countries that respect media freedom least. Not content with imprisoning journalists and netizens, Iran also harasses the relatives of journalists, including the relatives of those who are abroad.
Malawi (75th, +71) registered the biggest leap in the index, almost returning to the position it held before the excesses at the end of the Mutharika administration. Ivory Coast (96th, +63), which is emerging from the post-electoral crisis between the supporters of Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara, has also soared, attaining its best position since 2003.
Burma (151st, +18) continued the ascent begun in last year’s index. Previously, it had been in the bottom 15 every year since 2002 but now, thanks to the Burmese spring’s unprecedented reforms, it has reached its best-ever position. Afghanistan (128th, +22) also registered a significant rise thanks to the fact that no journalists are in prison. It is nonetheless facing many challenges, especially with the withdrawal of foreign troops.
…and big falls
Mali (99th, -74) registered the biggest fall in the index as a result of all the turmoil in 2012. The military coup in Bamako on 22 March and the north’s takeover by armed Islamists and Tuareg separatists exposed the media in the north to censorship and violence. Tanzania (70th, -36) sank more than 30 places because, in the space of four months, a journalist was killed while covering a demonstration and another was murdered.
Buffeted by social and economic protests, the Sultanate of Oman (141st) sank 24 places, the biggest fall in the Middle East and North Africa in 2012. Some 50 netizens and bloggers were prosecuted on lèse majesté or cyber-crime charges in 2012. No fewer than 28 were convicted in December alone, in trials that trampled on defence rights.
Journalists in Israel (112th, -20) enjoy real freedom of expression despite the existence of military censorship but the country fell in the index because of the Israeli military’s targeting of journalists in the Palestinian Territories.
In Asia, Japan (53rd, -31) has been affected by a lack of transparency and almost zero respect for access to information on subjects directly or indirectly related to Fukushima. This sharp fall should sound an alarm. Malaysia (145th, -23) has fallen to its lowest-ever position because access to information is becoming more and more limited. The same situation prevails in Cambodia (143rd, -26), where authoritarianism and censorship are on the increase. Macedonia (116th, -22) has also fallen more than 20 places following the arbitrary withdrawal of media licences and deterioration in the environment for journalists.
Varied impact of major protest movements
Last year’s index was marked by the Arab spring’s major news developments and the heavy price paid by those covering the protest movements. A range of scenarios has been seen in 2012, including countries such as Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, where regime change has taken place, countries such as Syria and Bahrain where uprisings and the resulting repression are still ongoing, and countries such as Morocco, Algeria, Oman, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, where the authorities have used promises and compromise to defuse calls for political and/or social and economic change.
Some of the new governments spawned by these protest movements have turned on the journalists and netizens who covered these movements’ demands and aspirations for more freedom. What with legal voids, arbitrary appointments of state media chiefs, physical attacks, trials and a lack of transparency, Tunisia (138th, -4) and Egypt (158th, +8) have remained at a deplorable level in the index and have highlighted the stumbling blocks that Libya (131st, +23) should avoid in order to maintain its transition to a free press.
The deadliest country for journalists in 2012 was Syria (176th, 0), where journalists and netizens are the victims of an information war waged by both the Assad regime, which stops at nothing in order to crack down and impose a news blackout, and by opposition factions that are increasingly intolerant of dissent. In Bahrain (165th, +8) the repression let up slightly, while in Yemen (169th, +2) the prospects continue to be disturbing despite a change of government. Oman (141st, -24) fell sharply because of a wave of arrests of netizens.
Other countries hit by protests saw changes for the better and worse. Vietnam (172nd, 0) failed to recover the six places it lost in the previous index. The world’s second biggest prison for netizens, it has remained in the bottom ten. Uganda(104th, +35) has recovered a more appropriate position although it has not gone back to where it was before cracking down on protests in 2011. Azerbaijan (156th, +6) and Belarus (157th, +11) both fell last year after using violence to suppress opposition demonstrations and this year they just moved back towards their appalling former positions. Chile (60th, +20) is beginning to recover after falling from 33rd to 80th in last year’s index.
Political instability puts journalists in the eye of the storm
Political instability often has a divisive effect on the media and makes it very difficult to produce independently-reported news and information. In such situations, threats and physical attacks on journalists and staff purges are common. Maldives (103rd, -30) fell sharply after the president’s removal in an alleged coup, followed by threats and attacks on journalists regarded as his supporters. In Paraguay (91st, -11), the president’s removal in a parliamentary “coup” on 22 June 2012 had a big impact on state-owned broadcasting, with a wave of arbitrary dismissals against a backdrop of unfair frequency allocation.
Guinea-Bissau (92nd, -17) fell sharply because the army overthrew the government between the first and second rounds of a presidential election and imposed military censorship on the media. In Mali (99th, -74), a military coup fuelled tension, many journalists were physically attacked in the capital and the army now controls the state-owned media. This index does not reflect the January 2013 turmoil in the Central African Republic (65th, -3) but its impact on media freedom is already a source of extreme concern.
“Regional models” found wanting
In almost all parts of the world, influential countries that are regarded as “regional models” have fallen in the index. Brazil (108th, -9), South America’s economic engine, continued last year’s fall because five journalists were killed in 2012 and because of persistent problems affecting media pluralism. In Asia, India (140th, -9) is at its lowest since 2002 because of increasing impunity for violence against journalists and because Internet censorship continues to grow. China (173rd, +1) shows no sign of improving. Its prisons still hold many journalists and netizens, while increasingly unpopular Internet censorship continues to be a major obstacle to access to information.
In Eastern Europe, Russia (148th, -6) has fallen again because, since Vladimir Putin’s return to the presidency, repression has been stepped up in response to an unprecedented wave of opposition protests. The country also continues to be marked by the unacceptable failure to punish all those who have murdered or attacked journalists. The political importance of Turkey (154th, -6) has grown even more because of the armed conflict in neighbouring Syria but it has again fallen in the index. It is currently the world’s biggest prison for journalists, especially those who express views critical of the authorities on the Kurdish issue.
There is no comparison with South Africa (52nd, -10), where freedom of information is a reality. It still has a respectable ranking but it has been slipping steadily in the index and, for the first time, is no longer in the top 50. Investigative journalism is threatened by the Protection of State Information Bill.
Democracies that stall or go into reverse
The situation is unchanged for much of the European Union. Sixteen of its members are still in the top 30. But the European model is unravelling. The bad legislation seen in 2011 continued, especially in Italy (57th, +4), where defamation has yet to be decriminalized and state agencies make dangerous use of gag laws. Hungary (56th, -16) is still paying the price of its repressive legislative reforms, which had a major impact on the way journalists work. But Greece’s dramatic fall (84th, -14) is even more disturbing. The social and professional environment for its journalists, who are exposed to public condemnation and violence from both extremist groups and the police, is disastrous.
Japan (53rd, -31) plummeted because of censorship of nuclear industry coverage and its failure to reform the “kisha club” system. This is an alarming fall for a country that usually has a good ranking. Argentina (54th, -7) fell amid growing tension between the government and certain privately-owned media about a new law regulating the broadcast media.
I often wonder if O’Brian’s operation motto is, “who do we reach? What do we pay?”
One suspects when it comes to cutting a deal the bold Denis may have more than just have a passing acquaintance with *P2P etiquette.
March 2010, a judicial tribunal found that a former minister for communications, Michael Lowry, “secured the winning” of the 1995 mobile phone license competition for Denis O’Brien’s Esat Digifone. The tribunal also found that O’Brien made two payments to Lowry, in 1996 and 1999, totaling approximately £500,000, and supported a loan of Stg£420,000 given to Lowry in 1999. In his 2,348-page report, Mr. Justice Michael Moriarty found that the payments from O’Brien were “demonstrably referable to the acts and conduct of Mr. Lowry” during the licence process, acts which benefited Esat Digifone. In effect, O’Brien was trading in influence or ‘legal corruption’
The Moriarty Report states that it is ‘beyond doubt’ that Michael Lowry imparted substantive information to Denis O’Brien that was ‘of significant value and assistance to him in securing the licence’.
It states that documentation, which contained ‘sensitive information’, was found in files in the possession of Esat Digifone. The report states it is unable to conclude how the company obtained the information on the weighting matrix adopted by the project group.
The report states that Michael Lowry displayed ‘an appreciable interest’ in the process and had ‘irregular interactions with interested parties’ at what it terms ‘most sensitive stages’.
It also found that Mr. Lowry made his preferences on the leading candidates known.)
Forbes magazine said of O’Brian
“Despite coups, corruption, and kidnappings, Denis O’Brien keeps pouring money into the world’s poorest, most violent countries. His bet: Give phones to the masses and they will fight your enemies for you.
Is it just one of those oddities of life that O’Brian just happens to likes doing business where corruption is endemic?
History would suggest that this is no mere coincidence.
Let us look at how some of the countries that Digicel operates in, and see how they stack up in terms of corruption
This first figure is the ranking position of the country. The number of countries measured is 176
The Corruption Perceptions Index scores countries on a scale from 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean). While no country has a perfect score, score below 50, indicate serious corruption problems.
Haiti sits in 165th position, with a corruption index of 19
Papua New Guinea, 150 -25
Guyana, 133- 28
Jamaica 83- 38
Panama, 83- 38
El Salvador 83 – 38
Trinidad & Tobago 80- 39
Possible soon to be added to the Digicel list is Myanmar sitting in 172nd position with a corruption index of 16
O’Brien’s Jamaica-headquartered company, Digicel Group, began offering cheap cell phone service recently from Papua New Guinea. Razor wire and half-dozen guards carrying shotguns and pistols protect the Digicel office in Papua New Guinea.
The murder rate in this Pacific hellhole is one of the highest in the world. Corruption is also rife in PNG
Bermuda-incorporated Digicel was founded in 2001 and has operations in 28 countries in small markets in the Caribbean, Latin America, and the Pacific. Its main market is Jamaica where it has about a 75% market share and in June was fined by the regulator for anti-competitive behavior. In May, the Jamaican tax authorities raided its Jamaican offices.
*Pay to play
Tomorrow we will have a look at O’Brian’s good friend President Michel Martelly of Haiti that upstanding man of impeccable honesty