HOMOPHOBIA IN CRIMEA
For Crimea’s LGBT community, the peninsula’s annexation by Russia means a return to the shadows. Now governed by Russian law, which includes a 2012 ban on “homosexual propaganda,” gays in Crimea are fair game for public persecution. Sergei Aksyonov, the new head of the regional government, recently warned that if gays attempted to assert their rights, local police and paramilitary forces would “take three minutes to clarify what [sexual] orientation is right.”
In a photo essay for Time magazine, Pulitzer Center grantee Misha Friedman documents the plight of one gay couple and their young son as they are forced to flee Crimea for safer precincts in Kiev. Misha explained that he joined the family on their journey because he felt it was emblematic of the transformation that Crimea has undergone since the annexation.
“They just struck me as a normal happy family,” says Misha. “They just got caught up in the politics of bigotry.”
FAITH AND FEAR IN UGANDA
Uganda is another country notorious for its oppression of gays. A 2013 “Anti-Homosexuality” law imposes a life prison sentence on anyone engaging in homosexual acts, and a three-year jail sentence for failing to report suspected homosexuals. Uganda’s high court recently overturned the law, but being gay is still a criminal offense in Uganda.
The most outspoken proponents of anti-gay legislation tend to be religious leaders, but Pulitzer Center grantee Daniella Zalcman, who has been documenting the LGBT struggle in Uganda for three years, tells a Huffington Post interviewer that the religious landscape is actually a bit more nuanced.
“I’m not claiming that there are many Ugandan pastors and priests who support the LGBT rights movement (one bishop who famously stood up for LGBT rights was rapidly excommunicated by the Church of Uganda), but from my interviews it’s clear that many of them are much more thoughtful and measured in their discussions of sexual and gender identity than we’re led to believe,” says Daniella. “With this series, I hope that I’ve created a more thorough and accurate cross-section of what Ugandans hear in their places of worship every week.”
KILLING THE MESSENGER
Thirty-five environmental journalists have been killed in the field over the last decade, far more than have died covering the war in Afghanistan during the same period. Cambodian journalist Taing Try, shot dead last week for investigating illegal logging in Kratie Province, is the latest casualty.
“Taing Try joins two other journalists and environmental activists—Hang Serei Oudom and Chut Wutty—who have risked their lives to expose the social and environmental injustices of Cambodia,” says Pulitzer Center grantee Kalyanee Mam. “Their deaths remind us of the purpose of their fight—to protect Cambodia’s forests and to preserve a vanishing way of life that cannot survive without nature.”
Kalyanee, who is from Cambodia and who has also been reporting on environmental issues in her homeland, offers this video tribute to her fallen colleagues.
A woman wades through flood waters to retrieve sodden belongings from her home on a low-lying atoll, part of the central Pacific nation of Kiribati. The high tide arrived under a full moon, Oct. 9, peaking at 4:40 a.m. It pressed against a sand berm until it gave way, flooding the shantytown in Teaoraereke Village on Tarawa Island.
The breach of the berm took residents by surprise. Most of them scrambled to move to the homes of neighbors or relatives. An elderly couple, a disabled woman and few others had nowhere to go. “Some don’t want to move and are still sleeping while the water is just an inch away from their beds,” said Aretitea Teeta, a government official working on climate change. The roiling waters inundated pigsties and make-shift latrines and flowed into freshwater wells.
Such inundations are usually the result of misplaced local development, as a fast-growing population seeks a place to settle, scientists say. Much more will come, they say, as sea levels encroach on Kiribati’s 33 islands which rise on average about six feet above the sea.
Image and text by Ken Weiss. Kiribati, 2014.
Ken reports from Kiribati, an island nation of 32 atolls in the Pacific Ocean. The threat of climate change appears here twofold: At home, flooding, pollution and resource depletion threaten to quickly overwhelm both society and infrastructure, and more broadly, appeals to ratify legislative documents that would provide protection for climate refugee have been so far unsuccessful.
Also by Ken Weiss: Beyond 7 Million
“Since 2003, when Iraqi Kurdistan was deemed the ‘success story’ of the war, the region has been propped up as an example of the U.S.’s good intentions by those trying to rationalize military force, particularly conservative American policy makers,” writes Pulitzer Center grantee Jenna Krajeski in her latest dispatch for The New Republic.
“But progress has come alongside reports of rampant corruption, a widening gap between the rich and poor, and increasingly authoritarian tendencies in a government still dominated by family names.”
The flood of refugees created by civil war in Syria has overwhelmed the resources of cash-strapped aid agencies.
Pulitzer Center grantee Alice Su, writing for VICE News, tells the story of a resourceful group of Syrian refugees who raise money via social media from private donors for fellow refugees without access to UN or NGO aid.
Too often stories that examine family planning, adolescent exposure to HIV/AIDS, reproductive health and access to primary education for girls are considered soft news. Features routinely relegated to “Special Topics” or the SundayOutlook and Style sections.
The reality is that the challenges of population growth, environmental degradation, corporate greed, food security and even violent extremism can be traced back to these same issues with girls’ health, education, and human rights at the core.
Depriving girls of access to education has political, policy and legal ramifications to name but a few. And coverage of the tragedy still unfolding in northern Nigeria and elsewhere demonstrates that there’s a widespread, diverse and engaged audience to drive traffic to news organizations that prioritize stories on this subject.
Read Jennifer Koons’s full report from Niger here.
Meg Jones, a reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and Meghan Dhaliwal were in Afghanistan for two weeks to write about the America’s Afghanistan drawdown. Read more about their journey and visit the project page, Afghanistan: Packing Up War.
Recent flooding in India’s Kashmir region has left at least four hundred dead and five hundred families still stranded on their rooftops, awaiting rescue, as reported in New York Times on September 10, 2014. Many have run out of food, but claim the state government is making little effort to provide assistance.
“Some said only the politically connected were being evacuated,” Betwa Sharma and Nida Najar write. “Others complained that the rescue teams were incompetent.”
But the recent disaster is not the first time Kashmiri people have expressed frustrations with their leadership’s slowness. Pulitzer Center student fellow Reana Thomas’ reporting – which explores ongoing ecological threats to Kashmir’s Wular Lake – reveals similar sentiments among environmental crusaders.
“None of the authorities who support the lake actually come down to the lake. No one supports you,” aquatic biologist Dr. Ather Masoodi told Reana. “It’s a real challenge.”
Read Reana’s reporting on Kashmir locals’ quest for environmental justice to learn more.
We can now envision a post-AIDS world, thanks to dramatic advances in education and increased access to life-sustaining antiretroviral therapy. However, marginalized communities are still being left behind.
“Gap Map” is a new Pulitzer Center visualization that highlights those who are most disproportionately affected by the disease, from transgender sex workers and people who inject drugs to men who have sex with men. The initiative draws on Pulitzer Center reporting in Russia, India and Uganda, amplifying the voices of these marginalized communities and raising awareness about the stigma and discrimination that many face—and that almost always contributes to increased incidence of HIV.
The map is easily shared and fully embeddable. We welcome others to make use of this work—and to let us know where other people are at risk of falling through the gaps.
Pulitzer Center grantee Sebastian Meyer has been working alongside grantee Jenna Krajeski on a long-term project documenting a year in the life of Kurdistan.
Recently, Sebastian’s work has focused on the hundreds of Shi’ite Turkmen who have fled the town of Amerli and are seeking refuge in Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents.
Sebastian reported the story for Voice of America radio and filed this photo gallery for The Washington Post.
After a couple of years of relative quiet, Thailand’s political turmoil resumed again a few months ago when the Red Shirts’ mortal foes, the Yellow Shirts, mounted protests that effectively prevented the government from functioning, and this time the army took over in a coup d’état. The resilience of groups like the motorcycle taxi drivers, however, is likely to make it difficult, and perhaps impossible, for the new junta to maintain undisputed control—or to turn the government over to any civilian party that the drivers and others like them view as deadly rivals.
Motorcycle taxis are a large and, more important, representative constituency. If you want to get someplace quickly in traffic-choked Bangkok, your best bet is to take a two-wheeled motorcycle taxi, even if it doesn’t feel entirely safe to weave through traffic the way they do, squeezing in the tight spaces between slowly moving cars. There are some 200,000 motorcycle taxi drivers in Bangkok, most of them licensed, some of them not, recognizable by the orange vests they wear as they infiltrate the traffic, or wait for customers under corrugated metal awnings. They make 4 to 6 million trips a day, which means that the motorcycle taxis carry ten times as many passengers as Bangkok’s smooth-as-silk rapid transit system.
These drivers are, in other words, indispensable for local transportation.
Read more from Pulitzer Center grantee Richard Bernstein’s project, Thailand: Is Democracy Doomed? http://bit.ly/thailandmotorcycle