Urgent Appeals

Extended Introduction: Urgent Appeals, theory and practice

A need for dialogue

Many people across Asia are frustrated by the widespread lack of respect for human rights in their countries. Some may be unhappy about the limitations on the freedom of expression or restrictions on privacy, while some are affected by police brutality and military killings. Many others are frustrated with the absence of rights on labour issues, the environment, gender and the like. Yet the expression of this frustration tends to stay firmly in the private sphere. People complain among friends and family and within their social circles, but often on a low profile basis. This kind of public discourse is not usually an effective measure of the situation in a country because it is so hard to monitor. Though the media may cover the issues in a broad manner they rarely broadcast the private fears and anxieties of the average person. And along with censorship – a common blight in Asia – there is also often a conscious attempt in the media to reflect a positive or at least sober mood at home, where expressions of domestic malcontent are discouraged as unfashionably unpatriotic. Talking about issues like torture is rarely encouraged in the public realm. There may also be unwritten, possibly unconscious social taboos that stop the public reflection of private grievances. Where authoritarian control is tight, sophisticated strategies are put into play by equally sophisticated media practices to keep complaints out of the public space, sometimes very subtly. In other places an inner consensus is influenced by the privileged section of a society, which can control social expression of those less fortunate. Moral and ethical qualms can also be an obstacle. In this way, causes for complaint go unaddressed, un-discussed and unresolved and oppression in its many forms, self perpetuates. For any action to arise out of private frustration, people need ways to get these issues into the public sphere.
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