By Elliot Goat
“This is not a phone conversation…”
– Soviet saying
Introducing his new book The Red Web: The Struggle Between Russia’s Digital Dictators and the New Online Revolutionaries at an event at the Frontline Club on Tuesday 29 September, co-author and founder of Agentura.Ru Andrei Soldatov began by saying that to understand modern Russia you must first understand the mentality and historical relationship between citizen, state and surveillance.
By Francis Churchill
The plight of Syrians has returned to the headlines following the recent release of a tragic image of young Aylan Kurdi lying dead in the sand. It is easy to forget that the current situation in Syria, and the millions of refugees who have been forced to flee the country, has its roots in the Syrian Revolution of 2011 and the brutal response of the Assad regime.
In his latest film, A Syrian Love Story, Sean McAllister follows the story of one family torn apart by the political imprisonment of a mother, as they experience the civil war and finally find refuge in Paris.
On Wednesday 23 September, McAllister, alongside the film’s protagonist Amer Daoud and journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, joined an audience at the Frontline Club for a Q&A following the screening.
By Helena Kardova
L to R: Richard Cockett, Hkanhpa Sadan, Wai Hnin Pwint Thon, Robert Cooper, Paul French
Meanwhile certain regions of Burma are about to learn how to cast a ballot on November 8, ethnic minorities in rural areas are fleeing their homes that are being burnt by the military forces.
On Tuesday September 22, a panel of experts and activists discussed the uncertain future of the country that has been suffering the longest ongoing civil war.
Shortly after Paul French, commentator on Asia chairing the panel, invited the speakers to make their pitch about the current situation, it became clear that opinions about the value of recent reforms value immensely.
Meanwhile general secretary of the Kachin National Council Hkanhpa Sadan and campaigns officer at Burma Campaign UK Wai Hnin Pwint Thon said they can be hardly excited about the election, The Economist correspondent Richard Cockett and adviser to EU representatives Robert Cooper sustained that the progress has been palpable.
“What western community did was they gave us furniture so far and television, but we still don’t have a roof to live under. They gave us the furniture, because they want the garden,” Mr Sadan outlined the perspective of the Burmese.
Ms Pwint Thon criticised the constitution introduced in 2008, which in her view gives a fake illusion of a legal state. “The aim of the constitutions is to create an appearance of change while still holding on to military power and while giving the military the power to decide on economy and politics of the country,” she said.
Mr Cockett underlined that the reforms should be considered in a relevant context. “You should judge Burma against the standards of the region, not against standards of western democracy or British parliamentary democracy,” he said numbering increasingly oppressive countries like Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and Cambodia.
According to him, the idea of restoring order in the country is inaccurate. “This country has never experienced order. It’s never experienced peace. Indeed, it’s never experienced an existence as a coherent country at all,” Mr Cockett said referring to the conflict ongoing since 1948.
Mr Cooper reckoned that the upcoming election might become the fairest that the country will have witnessed. “It’s been contested by a large number of parties. It’s got a large number of observers, very large number of local monitors and a large number of international observers there. And it’s not happened before,” he said.
Nevertheless, all the speakers concluded that the way towards genuine democracy, peace with ethnic minorities and complete freedom of expression will be long and bumpy.
Ms Pwint Thon criticised the western “wait and see” approach and Mr Cockett admitted that the economic withdrawal from Myanmar didn’t help the situation either. “It meant that the best practices left the country and they were left with Chinese companies who didn’t care or ever thought about human rights,” he said.
The panel also agreed that the anticipated election might not be that key in the transition. One of the root causes of the conflict is oppression of the country’s minorities.
Mr Sadan underlined that Myanmar has introduced one of the most discriminative religious laws in the world. Ms Pwint Thon added it is not only Muslims, but also women who are not treated equally.
Mr Cockett spoke about a “very poisonous sectarian atmosphere” that he considers one of the real dangers of the election. “It could be a real flashpoint that they exploit all this in the run-up to the election and even after the election. It’ll be extremely explosive in Rakhine state itself where the Rohingya have been entirely disenfrenchised and the buddhist Rakhine nationalists will use this to rally opinion and if the attack Muslims,” he said.
By Francis Churchill
It is estimated that over 500,000 people were slaughtered in Indonesia between October 1965 and the early months of 1966.
Paramilitary militias and vigilante groups, coordinated by the Indonesian army and aided by British and American intelligence agencies, were responsible for mass killings in the country’s anti-communist purge. Nearly 50 years later and the perpetrators still hold power and are heralded as national heroes.
In his groundbreaking 2012 film, The Act of Killing, Joshua Oppenheimer exposed the impunity with which the perpetrators live. On 18 September The Fontline Club screened Oppenheimer’s follow up piece, The Look of Silence.
After the screening Oppenheimer joined the Frontline Club over Skype.
By Antonia Roupell
The screening on Monday 14 September at the Frontline Club lived up to its bold name. How to Change The World, directed by Jerry Rothwell, journeys to the beginnings of the environmental movement and organisation, Greenpeace. As heartwarming as it is harrowing, the film is an homage to non-violent activism. From the bomb tests of Amchitka to whale and seal poaching in Alaska, How To Change The World chronicles the journey of a small group of friends in Vancouver who attempted to do just that. The film’s executive producer Stewart Le Marechal joined the Frontline Club audience for a discussion following the screening.
By Olivia Acland
On Tuesday 8 September, the Frontline Club opened its doors to some of Britain’s most esteemed journalists for a celebration of sixty years of BBC Radio 4’s From Our Own Correspondent. A panel, chaired by Owen Bennet-Jones, discussed the changing landscape of international news reporting, and reflected on the highlights of FOOC since its beginnings in 1955.
By Ratha Lehall
On Friday 4 September, the Frontline Club hosted a screening of Cartel Land, a fearless and revealing documentary that portrays the violent influence of Mexican drug cartels and the vigilante groups fighting to end their reign of terror. The screening was followed by a Q&A with the film’s director Matthew Heineman.
By Dimple Vijaykumar
On Wednesday 2 September 2015, the Frontline Club hosted a debate on what the recent Iran nuclear agreement could mean for the country, the region and relations with the West. Just a few hours before the event, it was announced that President Obama had secured enough support in the Senate to ensure that the deal will go into effect, after Democrat Barbara Mikulski of Maryland became the 34th senator to deem it the “best option available to block Iran from having a nuclear bomb.” The agreement itself means a trade-off between Western powers, who will suspend economic sanctions on Iran providing that the regime limits the country’s nuclear programme.
By Helena Kardova
Dorothea Lange introduced a tenderness to documentary photography, which has since elevated her images to an iconic status and pushed US citizens to come to terms with darker aspects of their collective history.
On Monday 20 July 2015, the Frontline Club hosted a preview screening of the PBS documentary Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning. The film looks back at the photographer’s life through the spectrum of preparations for an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1966 – the first retrospective that the museum had dedicated to a woman photographer. Dyanna Taylor, director and Dorothea Lange’s granddaughter, joined the Frontline Club audience for a discussion via Skype following the screening.
By Francis Churchill
The garment manufacturing industry has garnered a reputation for being an exploitative industry. Nonetheless, the Indian government is planning to train 500 million of the country’s rural poor to fill factory jobs in the country’s ever increasing manufacturing sector. Most of this work has been contracted out to private companies who profit from training factory staff.
Filmmaker Chloe Ruthven’s latest film, Jungle Sisters, follows her own sister, Orlanda, as she attempts to improve the working conditions of young rural factory-workers from within the system. The documentary was screened at the Frontline Club on Friday 17 July 2015, followed by a discussion with the filmmaker.
By Amy McConaghy
On 16 August 2012, South African police shot and killed 34 striking miners from the Marikana platinum mine owned by Lonmin. They were on strike for a living wage, trapped in a life of desperate poverty.
With the Marikana Commission having recently released their report into what happened, the Frontline Club hosted a two-part event on 17 July, exploring the dynamics of politics, power and platinum in South Africa.
By Mica Kelmachter
On Friday 3 July 2015, the Frontline Club hosted a screening of documentary Shades of True, followed by a discussion with director Alexandre Westphal via Skype. Westphal’s documentary looks at the aftermath of Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, when a million people were murdered over a period of three months.
By Francis Churchill
On Tuesday 7 July 2015, the Frontline Club hosted a discussion on the problem of protecting journalistic sources in the age of digital surveillance.
Hosting the panel of experts was journalist and president of the Foreign Press Association Paola Totaro. The discussion touched upon issues of the law, journalist’s ethics, state transgression and best practices in protecting your sources.
The panel included journalists Julie Posetti, Jonathan Calvert and Paul Myers, as well as Gavin Millar QC, a specialist in media law.
By Amy McConaghy
In the summer of 2012, writer and journalist Samar Yazbek squeezed through a gap in the fence of the Turkish border and made her way back into the Syrian homeland from which she had been exiled the previous year.
On Wednesday 1 July, she joined an audience at the Frontline Club to discuss her new book, The Crossing: My Journey into the Shattered Heart of Syria, which documents this journey back to Syria as she bears witness to the devastating effects of war on the everyday lives of her fellow Syrians. Yazbek was joined in conversation by Syrian writer and broadcaster, Rana Kabbani.
By Helena Kardova
On Monday 29 June 2015, acclaimed Polish writer Mariusz Szczygiel joined an audience at the Frontline Club to introduce the film Gottland and to discuss his book of the same name. Bloomberg News writer Doug Lytle joined the panel for a discussion on Szczygiel‘s ongoing interest in Czech culture.