Adonis Diaries

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Reporters got the story of ‘Seafood from Slaves’

NEW YORK (AP) — The Associated Press expose on slavery in Southeast Asia’s fishing industry, awarded the Pulitzer Prize for public service Monday, was born of a painstaking investigation by four reporters who documented the harsh treatment of fishermen held captive on a remote island and traced their catch to U.S. supermarkets and restaurants. (About 2,000 of these captive slaves were liberated)

The stories, accompanied by photos and video showing caged men and a man weeping when reunited with the family he hadn’t seen in 22 years, led to the release of more than 2,000 enslaved fishermen and other laborers.

It came with substantial risk to the journalists, while posing thorny questions about how to spotlight the abuse without further endangering the captives.

The series, “Seafood from Slaves,” encompassed reporting across four countries by AP journalists Margie Mason, Robin McDowell, Martha Mendoza and Esther Htusan. Building on earlier reports of forced labor in Southeast Asia’s fishing industry, they worked for more than a year to delve into the harvesting and processing of inexpensive shrimp and other seafood sold in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Andrew Bossone shared a link

Gathering with staffers in the organization’s New York newsroom Monday, AP President Gary Pruitt and Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll praised the energy and hard work required to document the slavery in detail and show how it is used to supply the food on American tables

“It was a tour de force of reporting, and I think that what really stands out about them is their determination Not to stop short until they proved it in every which way,” AP International Editor John Daniszewski said.

It was the AP’s first Pulitzer for public service.

After reporting through much of 2014, McDowell and Htusan traveled to the Indonesian island of Benjina, about 1,900 miles from the country’s capital. The reporters found and talked with men held in a cage and interviewed other enslaved laborers at the town’s port.

Under cover of darkness, they pulled alongside a trawler to film captives describing their plight, before the reporters’ boat was nearly rammed by an angry security guard’s craft.

The laborers, poor men from Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand, described how they had been lured into captivity, locked up, beaten and forced to work.

They pointed the reporters to a graveyard where more than 60 workers who had died had been buried under false names.

From Benjina, the AP team relied on satellite technology to track a cargo ship carrying the slave-caught seafood to Thailand, where they watched it offloaded and trucked to cold storage plants and factories.

Through interviews, surveillance and shipping records, they tracked the processed seafood to the U.S., eventually pressing suppliers and retailers including Wal-Mart and restaurant chains like Red Lobster about the labor abuses.

The reporters and their editors knew they had an explosive story.

But they wrestled with whether to publish immediately and put the captives at risk, or provide information to authorities and wait until the men were safe, while risking being scooped. They decided on the latter, despite the AP’s longtime emphasis on reporting, not making news.

Their efforts led to the rescue and freedom of hundreds of slaves on the island and aboard ships, as well as crackdowns on Thai shrimp peeling plants staffed by captive laborers as young as 15.

Mason and Htusan traveled to Myanmar to see one of the freed men reunite tearfully with his family after two decades in captivity.

McDowell said the satisfaction of seeing the laborers freed was tempered by the knowledge that many more remain enslaved. But the AP team pursued its reporting in a way that could set the stage for additional reform, she said.

“I think what we intended to do from the beginning was to … bring as much attention to the issue as possible, and that was the reason for linking it to the American dinner table,” she said.

“Governments can put pressure on Thailand, human rights group can put pressure on them, labor rights organizations, but it’s not until the American companies or consumers start demanding change that you start to see change.”

The Indonesian government launched a criminal inquiry soon after AP published. The series, overseen by Mary Rajkumar, AP’s international enterprise editor, also resulted in numerous arrests and seizures of millions of dollars in goods.

The award is the second Pulitzer for Mendoza, who was part of an AP team recognized in 2000 for “The Bridge at No Gun Ri,” about the mass killings of South Korean civilians by U.S. troops at the start of the Korean War.

The AP has now won 52 Pulitzers, including a 2013 award for photographs of the civil war in Syria and a 2012 investigative prize for revealing the New York Police Department’s widespread spying on Muslims.

Note: It would be naïve to believe that Indonesia government had no knowledge on this traffic of slaves

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Status of Gaza and the expelled Palestinians living in Gaza

GAZA RESTRICTIONS ON MOVEMENT (Click here for December 2011 Gaza access and closure map) –

SIEGE and BLOCKADE

‘The prolonged blockade of Gaza, which had already been in place for some 18 months (report published in 2012 by IMU) before the current fighting began, amounts to collective punishment of its entire population.‘

The Fourth Geneva Convention specifically prohibits collective punishment. Its Article 33 provides: “No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.”’

‘Israel’s punitive closure of the Gaza Strip, tightened after Hamas’s takeover of Gaza in June 2007, continued to have severe humanitarian and economic consequences for the civilian population.‘Gaza’s economy grew rapidly, but the World Bank said the growth depended on international assistance.

The economy had not returned to pre-closure levels; daily wages, for instance, had declined 23% since 2007. Israel’s near-total restrictions on exports from Gaza hindered economic recovery.

Due to low per capita income, 51% of the population was unable to buy sufficient food, according to UN aid agencies. ‘Israel allowed imports to Gaza that amounted to around 40 percent of pre-closure levels, the UN reported.

Israel continued to bar construction materials, like cement, which it said had “dual use” civilian and military applications. Israel allowed shipments of construction materials for projects operated by international organizations, but as of September Gaza still had an estimated shortage of some 250 schools and 100,000 homes.’

  • Since the early 1990s, Israel has restricted passage to and from Gaza, but in 2006, following Hamas’ victory in Palestinian elections, Israel tightened its restrictions severely and imposed a total naval blockade on the tiny coastal enclave.
  • Israel’s siege and naval blockade of Gaza are acts of collective punishment, which is illegal under international law, and is considered as such by the United Nations and human rights organizations such as Amnesty International.
  • A 2009 Amnesty International report following Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s devastating military assault on Gaza in the winter of 2008-9, stated:
  • In 2011, the UN released the so-called Palmer Report on Israel’s attack against the Freedom Flotilla in May 2010 that killed nine Turkish activists (one of them a US citizen).
  • The report deemed Israel’s blockade legal, however it was widely considered a politicized whitewash, containing the important caveat that “its conclusions can not be considered definitive in either fact or law.”
  • Shortly after the Palmer Report was released, an independent UN panel of experts released a report concluding that Israel’s blockade of Gaza does violate international law, stating that it amounts to collective punishment in “flagrant contravention of international human rights and humanitarian law.” The International Committee of the Red Cross and a UN fact-finding mission into Israel’s attack on the Freedom Flotilla reached the same conclusion in 2010.
  • Israeli officials have admitted that the siege is not motivated primarily by security concerns, but is part of a strategy of “economic warfare” against the people of Gaza. In 2006, senior advisor to then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Dov Weisglass, said the goal of the Gaza siege was to put the 1.6 million people of Gaza “on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.”
  • Despite the fact that Israel loosened restrictions under international pressure following the assault on the Freedom Flotilla in 2010, the siege and blockade continue to strangle Gaza economically.
Palestinian children in Gaza dying under the bombs
  • According to a 2012 Human Rights Watch report:

– ‘NO-GO’ ZONES – (Click here for UN map showing no-go zones)

  • In May 2010, Israel declared “no-go” zones within 300 meters (328 yards) from the wall that surrounds Gaza. In practice, however, the UN has concluded that the no-go zone is actually 500 meters (546 yards). Palestinians who venture into this area risk being shot by Israeli soldiers without warning. Numerous Palestinian civilians, including children and the elderly, have been wounded and killed in these areas.
  • Human rights organizations such as B’Tselem have documented dozens of cases of cases in which Israeli soldiers opened fire at people who posed no threat and were much farther than 300 meters (328 yards) from the wall – up to 1,500 meters (1640 yards) away.
  • According to UN statistics, the area of the official no-go zones, together with the area in which entry is effectively restricted due to a real risk of gunfire, covers about 39 square miles, or 17% of the total area of Gaza.
  • The no-go zones affect some 113,000 Palestinians (7.5% of Gaza’s population), causing harm to their homes, land, workplaces, and schools. Seven schools are located in these areas.

– RESTRICTIONS ON FISHING – (Click here for UN map showing nautical fishing limit)

‘In addition to the harsh restrictions on fishing, B’Tselem has documented cases in which naval forces have attacked and harassed fishermen. The documented cases include, for example, gunfire, detention, delay, and confiscation of boats and fishing equipment.

The prohibition on entering deep waters and the danger now inherent to every excursion to sea deny fishermen access to areas abundant with fish, limiting their catches [to] small fish of poor quality. As a result, it is extremely hard to earn a living from fishing, or even cover fishing expenses.

Given the lack of other sources of income in the Gaza Strip, some fishermen are left no option but to violate the prohibition and endanger their lives. ‘The fishing sector in Gaza has suffered a sharp blow. According to various estimates, the livelihood of some 3,000 families in Gaza, comprising some 19,500 people, depends directly on the fishing industry, and another 2,000 families make a living from affiliated industries, such as building and maintenance of boats and sale and maintenance of equipment. The imports also raise the cost of fish, preventing many families from obtaining an important source of protein. Because of the short supply, the price of fish has risen.’

  • In the Interim Agreement signed by Israel and the PLO as part of the Oslo Accords during the 1990s, Israel agreed to allow fishing boats from Gaza to travel some 20 nautical miles from shore, except for several buffer zones near the borders with Israel and Egypt to which they were denied entry altogether.
  • But according to a 2011 report from B’Tselem: “In practice, however, Israel did not issue permits to all the fishermen who requested them, and allowed fishing up to a distance of 12 nautical miles.”
  • Since Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s devastating military assault on Gaza in the winter of 2008-9, the Israeli navy has reduced that limit to three nautical miles.

adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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