[image description: Paul Raffaele said a Suruwaha girl refused to shake his hand because she wanted to kill him. In fact, he was wearing so much sun cream the Suruwaha thought he had a skin disease.]
© Survival International
Australia’s Channel 7 network has been found guilty by the press regulator of serious violations of the broadcasting code, after screening a report so extreme it was branded ‘Freakshow TV’ by Survival International.
The report labelled Brazil’s Suruwaha tribe as child murderers; ‘Stone Age’ relics; and ‘one of the worst human rights violators in the world’.
Survival complained to Australia’s regulator ACMA after Channel 7 refused Survival’s request to issue a correction to its report, broadcast on its Sunday Night programme.
In a landmark judgment, ACMA has now ruled that the Channel was guilty of breaking its racism clause – ‘provoking intense dislike, serious contempt or severe ridicule against a person or group’ – believed to be the first time it has found a broadcaster guilty of this serious offence under the 2010 TV Code. It has also ruled that the Channel was guilty of broadcasting inaccurate material.
Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said today, ‘This was one of the worst reports about contemporary tribal people we’d ever seen. The Indians were made out to be cruel and inhuman monsters, in the spirit of 19th century colonialist scorn for ‘primitive savages’.
‘What makes it even worse is that the Suruwaha have been under attack by fundamentalist missionaries for years, who are waging a campaign slandering them as child-murderers. The missionaries are behind a draft law to allow them to remove Indian children from their communities, something with horrifying echoes of the Stolen Generations scandal.
‘The Channel 7 crew told the Suruwaha they wanted to allow them to put their side of the story – but actually produced one of the most grotesquely distorted pictures of a tribal people we can remember. The programme even openly fundraised for the missionaries on its website. We hope this ruling will mean we’re less likely to see such dangerous rubbish on TV in the future.’
Channel 7 is seeking a judicial review of the ruling in Australia’s Federal Court.
Note to Editors:
- Survival has written a set of ethical guidelines to help filmmakers work responsibly with tribal peoples. It is also using its Stamp it Out campaign to challenge racist depictions, however unwitting, in the media.
- Previously, Survival has highlighted how British TV company Cicada Films was accused of irresponsibly endangering the lives of Peruvian Indians by allegedly provoking a flu epidemic amongst them; and how a TV series about an Amazonian tribe was labelled ‘staged, false, fabricated and distorted’ by experts.
- Download a Survival briefing sheet on the proposed ‘Muwaji’s law’, the result of a campaign in Brazil by the fundamentalist missionary organization JOCUM (pdf, 70 KB). JOCUM are the Brazilian branch of the US organization Youth with a Mission.
- Download a briefing sheet on what experts and Indians say about JOCUM’s infanticide allegations (pdf, 49 KB).
The land is…
A history of the world’s tribal lands in under 60 seconds.
Latin American indigenous groups join forces to fight dams
© BBC Brasil
When Brazilian indigenous leader Tashka Yawanawa saw the news on television that communities from Peru were campaigning to prevent the construction of dams close to their land, he had no doubt about how he could help.
He turned on his computer, and using Skype, he contacted indigenous movements involved in the protest to offer both his support and to publicise the cause in Brazil.
“Today, indigenous groups can no longer escape the white man’s technology,” says Mr Yawanawa.
“We have to update ourselves, and prepare to face this new world.”
He belongs to the Yawanawa people, who live in the Brazilian Amazon, an area where indigenous communities have also fought many battles against hydroelectric dams.
He leads an organisation that seeks to build links with similar movements in other Latin American countries so they can learn from each other’s campaigns.
His initiative reflects an unprecedented effort among the region’s indigenous groups, as they join forces to resist major projects which they see as damaging to their territories.
It is part of a growing conflict as governments, seeking what they say is badly needed economic growth, build roads and hydro-electric dams, and exploit natural resources such as oil, copper and gold.
At the same time, indigenous groups say they are fighting to ensure that their traditional way of life is preserved.
Skype is one tool they are using to co-ordinate campaigns, alongside more traditional tactics such as adopting a unified position in international organisations including the UN and the Organisation of American States (OAS).
“We are mapping all the achievements of our fellow indigenous peoples in the continent in order to use their experiences here in Brazil,” says Marcos Apurina from the Co-ordination of Indigenous Organisations of the Brazilian Amazon (Coiab).
“Our problems are almost identical to the native peoples of other countries.”
This approach has been led by large national indigenous organisations and regional movements such as the Co-ordination of Indigenous Organisations of the Amazon Basin (Coica).
Coica operates across national boundaries, helping groups in Ecuador, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Guyana, French Guiana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela.
Coica’s work also involves organising meetings and workshops to help indigenous communities learn about international conventions, and also tips on lobbying and dealing with people in positions of power.
These gatherings allow indigenous leaders to discuss ways of putting pressure on governments to demarcate their territories.
They also discuss how international bodies can help guarantee indigenous rights or prevent major economic projects from having a detrimental impact.
“We are concerned about the new form of development known as the ‘green economy’. We understand this as an effort to exploit natural resources in indigenous territories,” says Rodrigo de la Cruz from Coica.
Several projects in the Brazil-Peru border region aim to expand the economic and transport integration between the two countries in the coming years.
The Inter-Oceanic Highway, connecting the north-west of Brazil to Peruvian ports on the Pacific coast, was inaugurated in 2011.
According to indigenous movements, this has brought several problems to the region, such as deforestation and illegal mining.
Jaime Corisepa, president of the Native Federation of Madre de Dios River and Tributaries (Fenamad), says that conditions may worsen if other projects go ahead.
One is the planned construction of six hydro-electric dams in Peru to supply the Brazilian market.
Protests forced the Peruvian government to suspend this project and to start a process of local consultation.
Using new technology and holding regional summits are ways to co-ordinate protests, but indigenous campaigners are also building on relationships that existed long before national boundaries and laws were established.
Marcela Vecchione, from the Pro-Indian Commission (CPI) in the Brazilian state of Acre, in Brazil, says that in many areas, indigenous communities are divided by artificial boundaries.
That is the case of the Manchineri people, divided by a border in 1904 when Brazil annexed the state of Acre.
“I often visit my family on the other side of the border. For me, travelling from Peru to Brazil means only crossing a river,” says Geraldo Manchineri.
But thanks to technology, communication across much longer distances has become easier.
Indigenous leaders hope to take advantage of this new way of co-ordinating and gather 1,200 people in Rio de Janeiro this June when world leaders will come together for the Rio+20 meeting.
[Image description: Paul Raffaele said a Suruwaha girl refused to shake his hand because she wanted to kill him. In fact, he was wearing so much sun cream the Suruwaha thought he had a skin disease.]
Outrage at ‘Freakshow TV’ as reporter brands Amazon tribe child murderers
© Survival International
An Australian TV report which branded an Amazon tribe as child murderers; a ‘suicide cult’ from the ‘Stone Age’; and the ‘worst human rights violators in the world’ has become the first target of a new Survival campaign against the racist depiction of tribal people on TV.
The ‘Freakshow TV’ campaign aims to challenge the depiction of tribal people on TV as primitive, backward savages.
The broadcast on Australia’s Channel 7 Sunday Night show featured ‘adventurer’ Paul Raffaele and reporter Tim Noonan visiting Brazil’s Suruwaha tribe.
The Suruwaha have already been targeted by fundamentalist missionaries, who falsely say they regularly kill newborn babies. The missionaries have lobbied Brazil’s Congress to pass a law allowing Indian children to be removed from their families.
The Indians allowed the Channel 7 team into their territory after Mr Raffaele said he wanted to film a ‘positive report’.
But their report has generated a firestorm of protests, with Survival International’s Director denouncing it as ‘one of the most biased, misleading and disgusting reports we’ve ever seen’.
The broadcast described the Indians as ‘a true suicide cult’; a ‘Stone Age’ people; and ‘lost in time’. The tribe is said to ‘encourage the murder of disabled children…in the most gruesome way possible’; take ‘poor little innocent babes into the jungle to be eaten alive by wild beasts’; and to be responsible for ‘one of the worst human rights violations in the world’.
The report’s website is also openly fundraising for an evangelical organization associated with the anti-Indian campaign.
Survival wrote to Channel 7 outlining the many errors and distortions in the report, but the Channel has rejected all the accusations. Australia’s broadcasting regulator ACMA has now opened a formal investigation.
Raffaele, previously a writer for Smithsonian Magazine, has been in trouble before – for a very similar Channel 9 report in 2006, in which he claimed a Papuan boy was in danger of being eaten by his tribe, who Raffaele described as ‘Stone Age cannibals’. The broadcast was widely attacked by experts, with Mr Raffaele reportedly admitting later that he had even misidentified the boy’s tribe.
Web giant Yahoo! is in partnership with Channel 7 in Australia. Survival has written to Yahoo! urging them to remove the report from their website, but has received no reply.
Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said today, ‘It’s freakshow TV at its very worst. The Indians are made out to be cruel and inhuman monsters, in the spirit of 19th century colonialist scorn for ‘primitive savages’. It’s clearly designed to have the same effect – to suggest that they don’t deserve any rights. The idea that such nonsense is supposed to help tribal children is breathtaking.’
Survival has written a set of ethical guidelines to help filmmakers work responsibly with tribal peoples. It is also using its Stamp it Out campaign to challenge racist depictions, however unwitting, in the media.
Download a Survival briefing sheet on the proposed ‘Muwaji’s law’, the result of a campaign in Brazil by the fundamentalist missionary organization JOCUM (pdf, 70 KB). JOCUM are the Brazilian branch of the US organization Youth with a Mission.
Download a briefing sheet on what experts and Indians say about JOCUM’s infanticide allegations (pdf, 49 KB).
Download Survival’s letter to Channel 7 (pdf, 217 KB).
Download statements from Suruwaha Indians about the Channel 7 report (pdf, 33 KB).
Download a Survival briefing sheet on the Suruwaha tribe (pdf, 37 KB).
Guarani man dies of gunshot wound following attack
© Survival International
A Guarani Indian from central Brazil has died of his injuries, two years after his community was attacked by gunmen.
Rosalino Lopes, 50, was shot in the abdomen and left paralyzed when his community, Pyelito Kuê, was attacked in 2009.
The gunmen were allegedly employed by the ranchers now occupying the Guarani’s land.
Before he died, Lopes said, ‘I am dying for the ancestral land where I was born. I wanted to return to Pyelito Kuê and live there with my family… Let all our indigenous relatives, and the authorities, know that the wound I received from the gunmen is killing me. I can’t go on any longer’.
The attack followed an attempt by Lopes’s community to reoccupy their land. A more recent attempt at reoccupation also resulted in violence: earlier this year, truckloads of armed men invaded the community, set houses on fire and left several people seriously injured.
The Guarani have been suffering increasing levels of aggression and threats in recent months, as gunmen are targeting prominent leaders who are reported to be named on a hit list.
In recent decades, vast areas of Guarani land have been taken from the Indians, to make way for cattle ranching and soya and sugarcane plantations.
The Brazilian government is responsible for mapping out the Guarani’s land and returning it to them, but this process has come to a near stand-still.
Meanwhile, the Guarani are living in appalling conditions, with disease, malnutrition, violence and suicide rife.
Survival is lobbying the Brazilian authorities and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, to ensure that urgent measures are taken to protect the Guarani.
[Image: Portrait photo of Xoroxloo Duxee died of dehydration after the Bushmen’s water borehole was disabled.]
© Survival International
Ten hidden abuses against indigenous peoples
Survival is releasing ten tribal rights abuses ahead of UN Human Rights Day this Saturday, to expose violations that still pass largely unnoticed.
Signed 63 years ago, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was the first global expression of the rights to which all human beings are inherently entitled.
Yet despite its creation in 1948, systematic abuses against the rights of tribal peoples have remained hidden, or continue to occur far from the public eye.
- Aboriginal Australians only gained voting rights at both federal and state level in 1965. It took another two years to include them in the national census.
- Australia’s ‘Stolen Generation; children of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent were forcibly removed from their families by authorities, until as recently as the 1970s.
- In 2010 tourists in Botswana relaxed around a swimming pool in the middle of the Kalahari Desert, whilst Bushmen were refused access to water, despite having secured historic rights to their land.
- Uganda’s Batwa pygmies never hunted gorillas, but were evicted from their forest in 1991, under the pretense of protecting the primates. The pygmies are now refugees.
- The stuffed body of a Bushman, known as ‘El Negro of Banyoles’, was displayed in a Spanish museum until 1997, when widespread protests led to its removal. The remains were buried in Botswana in 2000.
- Gunmen with hit lists are executing high-profile Indian leaders in Brazil. Cattle ranchers employ them to stop the Guarani returning to their land.
- Massacre and disease killed one in every five Yanomami in Brazil during the 1980s, until international pressure forced Brazil to evict gold miners.
- In what are now recognized as ‘Human Safaris’, tourists treat the indigenous Jarawa of India’s Andaman Islands like animals by throwing them food.
- ‘Potlatch’, a gift-giving custom practised by indigenous peoples in Canada and US, was outlawed as ‘contrary to civilised values’ in 1884. It took until 1951 for the law to be repealed.
- Under Stalin’s Soviet rule, Siberian shamans were actively persecuted. By 1980, some believed they had disappeared altogether.
Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said today, ‘One of the reasons for the continuing human rights abuses of tribal peoples is that the UN’s Declaration is not legally enforceable. That’s why all those who oppose these crimes against humanity should vigorously campaign for the worldwide ratification of the international law ILO 169, which is binding.’
[image: a portrait photo of Marcus Veron, a Guarani leader who was killed in 2003 during an attempt to return to his land.]
Brazilian gunmen brandish tribal hit list in wake of leader’s murder
© Survival International
Gunmen in Brazil are brazenly intimidating indigenous communities with a hit list of prominent leaders, following the high profile murder of Nísio Gomes last month.
Reportedly employed by powerful landowners in Mato Grosso do Sul state, the gunmen are creating a climate of fear to prevent Guarani Indians from returning to their ancestral land.
The tactics employed in recent incidents have been almost identical. Gunmen encircle vehicles transporting Guarani, force them to stop, and then verbally abuse and interrogate passengers about the names on the hit list.
One Guarani leader told Survival, ’They’ve pinpointed us and they’re set to kill us. We’re at great risk. Here in Brazil, we have no justice. We have nowhere left to run.’
On Sunday, around 100 Guarani returning from a meeting in the district of Iguatemi were targeted. Guarani witnesses told Survival one of the four men involved was a local mayor.
The Guarani said the men shouted insults such as, ‘We’re going to burn these buses full of Indians!’ Members of a government team were also present at the scene.
Continued threats have also forced the son of an assassinated leader to flee his community. Ranchers killed Marcos Veron in 2003 after he repeatedly tried to recover a small piece of his community’s ancestral land – his son Ladio is now being targeted.
Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said today, ‘This is yet another tragedy in a determined campaign to exterminate all Guaraní opposition to the theft of their land. The ranchers will stop at nothing to protect their interests, and it’s utterly shameful that the Brazilian government can’t stop these gunmen from acting outside the law.’
Gomes’ killers have yet to be arrested, but last week Brazil’s Public Ministry said six men had been charged with the murder of two Guarani teachers in 2009.
The accused include a notorious Brazilian rancher who held the teachers’ community hostage, and local politicians.
Here’s a wonderful film about indigenous activism.
© Survival International
The original scientists
The lazy racism which describes tribal people as ‘primitive’ and ‘backwards’ is now being challenged wherever it occurs.
Like all human societies, theirs are constantly changing and developing. Accusations of savagery are as wide of the mark as doomed attempts to ‘preserve’ living cultures.
In fact, tribal people are the original scientists. They developed many of the planet’s staple foods - crops which feed billions of people today. And without their botanical knowledge, many vital medicines might never have been developed.
Click the photo to open the infographic.