The pioneering exiled independent radio station SW Radio Africa has been forced to pull the plug after thirteen years on the air. The “pirate” station was started in Zimbabwe in 2000 by journalist Gerry Jackson, who won a court case to make independent radio legal after being fired by the state broadcaster for criticising the government. Just six days after her first broadcast, Jackson’s equipment was seized and destroyed by armed guards and Jackson fled to the UK where she and her team broadcast to Zimbabwe from exile in London. Freelance reporter Danielle Batist charts the final days of SW Radio Africa, who challenged the dictatorship of President Robert Mugabe and gave a voice to the millions suffering dire poverty in Africa. Jackson speaks about a great loss of hope following last year’s rigged elections that allowed Mugabe to stay in power.
A recent child trafficking scandal in India with 580 kids illegally moved into Muslim orphanages in Kerala provoked national outrage. But experts warn this is just the tip of the iceberg with probably thousands more children lured or abducted from their homes and then sold into prostitution. Others are maimed for the purposes of begging or even killed for their organs. The practise is particularly rampant in India’s underdeveloped villages where some families willingly sell their children for measly sums of cash. Poverty has been blamed as a major factor in the country of 1.2 billion people where almost 70 per cent live on less than two dollars a day.
“Don’t bother about trying to move me to another prison. I’ve decided to go back on heroin instead. Any time you want some, let me know,” said an inmate at the UK’s notorious Wormwood Scrubs prison to Angela Levin. Levin is an award-winning journalist and former prison watchdog and in an article for The Big Issue UK she describes the alarming policies that have seen some overcrowded jails in Britain working at double capacity, with staff stretched so thin that drug-taking is rampant. Prisoners can spend up to 23 hours a day in their cells with rehabilitation almost non-existent. Indeed, some 50 per cent of criminals with a short sentence end up homeless and reoffend within a year.
Sheep farmers in Namaqualand, South Africa, have a new weapon in their fight against predators. It’s big, it barks… and it thinks it’s a goat. Anatolian shepherd dogs are now being used to scare off leopards and other wild cats that kill farmer’s livestock. As the majority of Namaqualand’s farmers are poor subsistence farmers, these attacks are devastating and the farmers previously responded by hunting the animals down using brutal traps. Anatolian shepherd dogs are a humane alternative. Growing up with a herd of goats from a young age, the dog becomes fiercely loyal to the flock and protects it at all costs - living outdoors alongside them as one of their own.
Marvel is arguably the world’s most famous comic-book publisher but it’s also one of the most successful and highest-grossing film studios of all time, its super hero block-busters consistently grossing huge sums of money at the cinema. Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus are two of Marvel’s hit screenwriters who brought fan favourites such as Iron Man and Captain America together with previously obscure cult characters such as the Norse gods Thor and Loki. They talk secrets and spoilers with Steven MacKenzie of The Big Issue UK.
Kate Bush is a famous English singer-songwriter and one of the most revered musicians of all time. Hitting number one in the charts with debut single “Wuthering Heights” in 1978, she took the world by storm at just 19 years old. After 10 albums and a whole host of awards, Bush retreated from the limelight – touring only once in her entire career, in 1979. Recently Bush returned to playing live for the first time in 36 years, with a string of shows only in London, UK. Anastasia Safioleas and Doug Wallen of The Big Issue Australia chart her career and her huge influence on contemporary musicians.
Pieter-Dirk Uys is an award-winning South African satirist who is also an author, film-maker, performer and social activist. He began his work at the height of Apartheid when South Africa was segregated by race and he used humour to criticise the government. Currently, he performs in schools across the country to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS. He writes a touching letter to his younger self for The Big Issue South Africa, discussing the struggles of being a gay teenager in 1960s Africa.
A group of activists in Sacramento, California, recently staged 12 days of civil disobedience to protest against the amount of corporate money involved in politics. Protesters from 99Rise walked 480 miles across the American state, from Los Angeles to the state capital, to bring their demands to the doorstep of California’s leaders. The campaign resulted in almost 50 arrests but it enjoyed success as those in power publicly acknowledged there is a problem with big money and corruption in American politics. Indeed, 99Rise has claimed a victory as moves have now been made to force political campaigns to declare their major donors.
Oak Park in Sacramento, California, is one of many so-called ‘food deserts’ in the USA, with the nearest grocery stores some miles from the neighborhood, making it difficult for low-income people to access fresh food. Now, one man is fighting back for his community. Ron Rutherford grows fresh vegetables in his own garden to share with the historically African-American neighborhood and has further plans to open a soup kitchen and expand the garden to offer work to people. He speaks to Cathleen Williams of Homeward Street Journal.
Norway plans to rent prison space in the Netherlands. Dutch prisons already house overflow prisoners from Belgium and as its prison population has been steadily falling since 2008, there will be space for Norway’s offenders too. Norwegian prisons are known for their relatively humane treatment of inmates, with non-violent offenders often held in open prisons with some free personal movement, jobs, recreation facilities and focus on rehabilitation. It also boasts one of the lowest re-offending rates in the world.
A top Ukrainian clergyman has claimed that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is under the influence of Satan. Patriarch Filaret, head of the Kiev Patriarchate, a branch of the Orthodox Church, said that Putin has fallen under the devil’s spell and faces eternal damnation if he does not repent. The holy man dubbed Putin the ‘new Cain’ after the Biblical character that famously killed his own brother.
Experts have condemned Latin America’s anti-drug laws which mostly affect poor young men, slum-dwellers and single mothers while letting major criminals off the hook. A recent conference in Costa Rica saw activists, experts and decision-makers come together to demand reforms to ease the pressure on vulnerable groups and shift the focus of law enforcement measures to those who benefit most from the drug trade. Currently, many of those in prison serving long sentences for drug smuggling are poor people who were forced into the illicit trade by poverty.
“Together with our seven children we fled into the hospital grounds and slept our first night under trees to escape the Israeli missiles that were destroying whole areas, killing entire families,” said Islam Abu Sheira, speaking about the Israeli shelling of the Gaza Strip that came to an end recently after 50 days of conflict. The war is over but now thousands are without homes to return to, having fled with only the clothes on their backs. Many are still living in temporary refuges such as schools, which are overcrowded and lack appropriate sanitation. Already with a deficit of 70,000 homes following previous conflicts, Gaza now faces a catastrophic housing crisis in one the most densely populated places in the world.
Singing in the Surprise Street Choir makes Nadine Gartmann (52) happy. Surprise is a Swiss street paper which also exists as a choir for its vendors and those in social distress. Nadine lives in a house with her sister, mother and pets and would like to travel to Greece soon for her holidays. Here, Nadine tells her story to Renato Beck.
The United Nations has condemned the criminalisation of homelessness in the USA in a damning new report. Homelessness in America has increased substantially in some cities in the wake of the economic recession leaving thousands more people on the streets. Yet, in many places the authorities have responded by cracking down on activities such as sleeping, loitering and eating in public while simultaneously defunding social services. There was also criticism from the UN that homelessness has disproportionately affected ethnic minorities. In recent years, street papers have been at the forefront in exposing the criminalisation of homeless people across the world. IPS reports.
To celebrate National Women’s Day, The Big Issue South Africa meets three everyday heroines whose stories challenge the world’s patronising perspective of Africa’s women as meek, mild and voiceless. Sixolile Mbalo, Dolores Godeffroy and Yemi Adamolekun tell their inspiring stories of courage and innovation, set against the backdrop of a country where women are often marginalised and the subject of violence.
The recent football World Cup in Brazil displaced thousands of poor Brazilians and in 2016 the Olympics threatens to do the same when the South American nation plays host to the world again. US sports Journalist Dave Zirin speaks to Hart Horner of Real Change about his new book, “Brazil’s Dance with the Devil: The World Cup, the Olympics, and the Fight for Democracy”, which explains the South American country’s unique bond between soccer and politics, and how the excitement and prestige of major sporting events is used to justify chilling levels of security and human rights abuses.
“I’ve been on drugs most of my life, rehab twice, but the only thing that ever really sorted me out was painting,” says Lee Hoyland, a former criminal and artist who sells the English street paper, The Big Issue in the North. Hoyland was in and out of prison for most of his life after he began using drugs as a teenager but during his last stretch inside he discovered art and hasn’t looked back. Now clean, Hoyland is exhibiting powerful works dealing with themes such as capitalism and environmentalism that are being snapped up by art-lovers.
Eddie Izzard is a famous English stand-up comedian and actor, who has wowed audiences around the world with his alternative comedy routines. Izzard is a multi-lingual joker who performs his shows in German and French as well as his native tongue. He is also outspoken about his politics and a dedicated member of the Labour Party in Britain who has said he would like to be mayor of London in the future. He speaks to The Big Issue UK about his latest role in the drama Castles in the Sky, playing Robert Watson-Watt, a British scientist who invented Radar during World War Two, a game-changing invention that enabled early detection of bombing raids.
A plan to clean up public spaces and parks in San Francisco, California, has been targeting rough sleepers in the American state. A new initiative called “Clean, Green and Safe” has seen the number of park patrol officers doubled and paths sprayed with water up to five times a week, displacing the homeless who sleep on the streets. David Krause reports for Street Sheet.