State Dept: human rights
You, too? They joked about having their missions spoofed on national television. Froma Harrop, left, president of the Association of Opinion Journalists, got grilled on The Daily Show about the Civilitas-AOJ project. Deborah E. Graze, a career Foreign Service officer, began her AOJ briefing with video of comedian Stephen Colbert's 2010 interview with Assistant Secretary of State Michael H. Posner. [JM for AOJ]
War, democracy, free media...
Adapted from reporting by Dan Simpson
Deborah E. Graze, principal deputy assistant secretary of state in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, told the April AOJ briefing that key subjects the Bureau deals with include war as a human rights problem, how to define democracy, and providing U.S. support to civil society in countries in transition.
She noted a worldwide trend toward government crackdowns on independent media, adding that the United States was paying special attention to the persecution of journalists, institutionally and as individuals.
She took questions.
• Anti-Semitism abroad and its affect on positions taken by the State Department?
Graze replied that the problem was growing across the world and stated the need for the United States to call out hate. She referred to the work of Hannah Rosenthal as Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism.
• The "Kony-2012" video on the brutal Lord's Resistance Army that went viral on the Internet?
She replied that it was good to get information about the LRA around.
• Has the U.S. approach to human rights changed since it emerged as an issue in the Carter administration? Does she see a current gap in U.S. media coverage of human rights issues?
She replied by citing the annual human rights reports on each country, including the United States, that currently appear apparently only on-line*. They are a historical chronicle of U.S. enforcement and monitoring coverage of human rights issues.
• Are non-allies the principal focus of U.S. human-rights concerns?
She said no, and added that U.S. expressions of concerns frequently caused tension in U.S. relations with other countries, including allies.
• Is the United States interested in anti-Semitism separate from concern about anti-Israel opinion?
The United States does not see anti-Semitism and anti-Israel opinions as the same issues. She added that Israeli policies did not necessarily reflect Israeli opinion.
• What was the Department's view of Egypt's removing candidates from the presidential ballot?
"Chaotic" was her term for the whole Egyptian electoral process at the time.
• In Libya, for example, how does U.S. policy toward human rights in a given country reflect the multiple U.S. national interests at play?
Graze again referred the questioner to the human rights reports*. She said that attempts were made to have dialogue on human rights issues with contacts in violator countries.
• Do the U.S. use of drones and the number of Americans in prison present problems in efforts to "universalize" human rights principles?
Graze replied that the U.S. defends itself in various forums** as necessary.
Dan Simpson had a 35-year career in the State Department that included ambassadorships to the Central African Republic, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He joined the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2001 as associate editor and member of the editorial board.
His column on this year's briefings is at
* 2010 reports posted in 2011 are at http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/
** Some examples of U.S. responses are at http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/shrd/
*** Hillary Clinton's press freedom statement 5/3/2012 http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2012/05/189256.htm
Press briefing on press freedom 5/3/2012 http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2012/05/189220.htm
Other links (embedded above)
Rosenthal bio http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/biog/133357.htm
envoy page http://www.state.gov/j/drl/seas/index.htm
(c) 2012 Association of Opinion Journalists
The Masthead, spring 2012, web-published in stages April 24-mid-May
This article posted 5/3/2012 4:53-5:06 p.m.CDT