Posts Tagged ‘Press Freedom’

Deaths in Eritrea & the UK and a Peace March 2017

Tuesday, September 21st, 2021

Most embassies are in the most expensive parts of London, with a large number around Belgrave Square and others in Mayfair. Eritrea’s is in Islington and I can only recall once having been to a protest outside it. There should be more, particularly by jounalists, as Eritrea, a one-party state ruled by presient Isais Afwerki since independence in 1993, has one of the worst human rights records and, according to Reporters Without Borders, has the worst press freedom in the world. In 2001 all independent media in the country were banned and politicians and ten leading journalists were arrested and thrown into isolation without charge, without trial and without contact with the outside world. Nobody knows their whereabouts and only four were thought to be still alive in 2017.

Those still alive are still in jail and have now been held for 20 years, along with other journalists imprisoned since then. Very little is known about most of them with no official information being released, other than government denials that some have been tortured, which are widely disbelieved. They are held in jails where torture is commonplace. In December 2020, 28 Jehohova’s witnesses, some of whom had been in jail for 26 years were released, raising hopes of the families of journalists, but there have been no further releases.

On Thursday 21st September 2017 there were 12 chairs set out at the protest across the street from the Eritrean Embassy, one four each of the journalists jailed in 2001, with photographs of them all. Protesters sat on four of the chairs, representing those thought still to be alive.

I went to another protest about deaths in prisons, this time in the UK. It was called at short notice after a Chinese man in Dungavel immigration detention centre. This followed the death earlier this month at Harmondsworth detention centre of a Polish man who took his own life after the Home Office refused to release him despite the courts having granted him bail. There have been thirty-one deaths in immigration removal centres since 1989.

Britain is the only EU country which holds refugees and asylum seekers to indefinite detention, and both official reports and media investigations have criticised the conditions at these immigration prisons. The protest outside the Home Office called for an end to immigration detention, which is inhumane and makes it difficult or impossible for asylum cases to be fairly assessed.

Stop Killing Londoners blocked traffic briefly in a carefully planned operation in Trafalgar Square, which involved the simultaneous stopping of traffic at all five entrances to the road system. As in previous events, it was a token block, holding up traffic for less time than it gets halted by congestion on some busy days, and around ten minutes after it began they moved off the road, returning a few minutes later for a short ‘disco protest’, dancing on the road on the east side of the square for a few minutes until police asked them to move.

The protest was to publicise the illegal levels of air pollution in the capital which result in 9,500 premature deaths and much suffering from respiratory disease. It was one of a series of similar protests in various areas of London.

I hurried down from Trafalgar Square to Westminster Bridge, going across it just in time to meet the World Peace Day Walk as several hundred campaigners walk arrived having walked beside the Thames from Borough Market carrying white flowers. The London Peace Walk was one of a number takeing place in Barcelona, Paris and other cities around the world on World Peace Day.

The marchers wore black and walked in silence to grieve for the recent loss of precious life due to violence in all forms, including terrorist, state, corporate, domestic. They stated that there can be no peace without justice, equality and dignity for all and that “We stand together against the forces of hate and division – for peace.” At the end of their march they went onto Westminster Bridge and threw flowers and petals into the Thames.

More at:
World Peace Day Walk
Trafalgar Square blocked over pollution
No More Deaths in immigration detention
Free forgotten jailed Eritrean Journalists


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Atos & more – 19 Feb 2014

Friday, February 19th, 2021

Seven years ago, 19 Feb 2014 was a big day for protests, particularly as campaign groups Disabled people Against Cuts (DPAC), Black Triangle, Atos Miracles, the Green Party, NUS, Occupy New Network, PCS, Unite and many others were taking part in a National Day of Action against Atos for its institutionally incompetent Work Capability Assessment testing of disabled people which has resulted in many disabled people being unfairly refused benefits.

There were protests at each of the 144 Atos testing centres around the country, including those at Wimbledon, Neasden, Marylebone, Highgate, Ealing, Balham and Croydon in London, but I only photographed them at the Atos offices in Triton Square, just north of the Euston Rd.

Even a report commissioned for the government pointed out serious flaws, and over 40% of appeals after people have had their benefits cut by Atos assessments have been allowed a figure rising to over 70% where the appellants have been assisted in their appeals by benefits experts. These appeals take months, during which people are thrown into abject poverty, and often having won on appeal claimants are within a few weeks again penalised by a new Atos assessment.

Atos apparently get paid more for finding people fit to work, and use simplistic tests and often tricks to do so, with no quality control or penalty for those tests which are overturned on appeal. The protesters called for the company to lose its contracts and be prosecuted for its mishandling of the tests, and for these tests to be abandoned and the Minister responsible, Ian Duncan Smith to be sacked.

Many disabled people have been driven to suicide by these failed tests and the stressful appeals procedures. The government figures for January to November 2011 showed that 10,600 people, an average of 223 a week, died withing six weeks of having been found fit for work by ATOS. The Department of Work and Pensions scandalous response to the public outcry when these figures were released was not to take action to make the improvements that were clearly needed, but simply to refuse to respond to requests for similar information for later years. The campaigners say that assessments of fitness to work should be made by qualified medical doctors, ideally by “the GP who regularly sees and treats the sick or disabled individual in question” who they say “is the only person able to decide if an individual is fit for work.”

Among those I heard speaking outside Atos HQ were MP Dennis Skinner, Paula Peters of DPAC, Among those I heard speaking outside Atos HQ were MP Dennis Skinner, Paula Peters of DPAC, Green Party leader Natalie Bennett, journalist Sonia Poulton and the Rev Paul Nicolson of Taxpayers Against Poverty. You can read more about the protest and see more pictures at Atos National Day of Action.


I left the Atos protest briefly to cover three further events. The first at the Iraqi consultate in Kensington was a solidarity vigil by the wife and daughter of Shawki Ahmed Omar, an American citizen held and tortured in Iraq by US and Iraqis since his arrest in 2004, and now in Abu Ghraib. They were accompanied by two supporters at one of their regular vigils calling for his release. You can read more about the vigil and the case at Solidarity vigil for Shawki Ahmed Omar.



Next was a picket at the Irish Embassy close to Marble Arch to demand the immediate release of Margaretta D’Arcy, imprisoned for protesting against illegal US flights from Shannon Airport, and now in Mountjoy Women’s Prison, Dublin. More about this at Free Margaretta D’Arcy picket.



Third was a protest called by my own union the NUJ at the Egyptian Embassy in Mayfair, for press freedom in the country and calling for the release of all jailed journalists, including the four Al Jazeera journalists. More at NUJ demands Egypt release jailed journalists.


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.