Friday, December 12, 2014

CIA Torture Report: The Global Response

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released the CIA's Torture Report last Tuesday, in which many of the CIA's post-9/11 torture practices were brought to light. Though the full, much longer report (read here) is still classified, the release of the 525-page executive summary is extensive enough to garner international disapproval and question the policies and ethics behind the CIA's interrogation and detention program.

The horrifying details of the report show that the CIA exhibited brutal and shocking behavior in their interrogation techniques. Some of the specifics mentioned:

  • Feeding prisoners a puree of hummus, pasta with sauce, raisins, and nuts through the rectum,
  • Keeping detainees awake for 180 hours - over a week - causing disturbing hallucinations,
  • Misleading members of Congress and the White House about the effectiveness and extent of its brutal interrogation techniques 
  • Waterboarding a prisoner 183 times
The international response has been overwhelming and consistent: condemnation. Ben Emmerson, a UN special rapporteur on counter-terrorism, has stated that the individuals behind the torture techniques need to be brought to justice and face penalties that match the crimes they have committed. Iran's leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, had deemed the US's report on torture "shameful." and that "they claim #humanrights &trample its basics in their prisons." China's news agency Xinhua advised the US to clean up its own backyard and respect the rights of other countries without intervening. This is just a sample of the input from various countries with more responses from France, Russia, North Korea, and Poland.

Obviously the details outlined in the report are egregious and sometimes hard to stomach. However, the US has to tread lightly when it comes to future interactions with other countries. Releasing sensitive information regarding the torture and violence implemented on people of other countries is enraging, and rightfully so. Instead of being the traditional powerhouse United States, the best move PR-wise would be to be humbled by the release of the document and really reflect on our policies and interrogation techniques as a country. Everyone is born with basic, fundamental human rights and some of these rights have been violated. Hopefully, the US will change its ways to provide the fairness, freedom, and humanitarianism we profoundly speak about. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Hong Kong Protests Implications on Public Relations

Thousands of Hong Kong residents have taken the streets to protest for a pro-democracy environment. Protesters want to be able to elect their Chief Executive in 2017, however Beijing says that those chances are very unlikely. Although most of the demonstrations have been peaceful and in accordance with the law, there have been a few instances that exhibit the tension that has risen in China.

How does public relations come into play?

The police have been filmed and witnessed to use excessive force on protesters, like pepper spray and tear gas. This caused even more protesters to fill the streets to the extent that major roads were blocked for the fight towards a democracy. In an effort to maintain goodwill, the police were also filmed washing out the eyes of those hit with pepper spray. Goodwill, which essentially means the amount of value that a company's good reputation adds to its overall value, is one of the most fundamental aspects of public relations.

This is not to say that the protesters are the sole victims of police brutality. The entire demonstration has been a back-and-forth fight between the police and the protesters, yet the biggest fight is how both sides, albeit more the police, maintain a positive image in the media. The protestors have the duty to seem peaceful in the eyes of the public, as victims of police brutality.

The police on the other hand are notoriously seen as the bad guy, with reports of police beating a handcuffed protestors while others stood watch. While the need for a controlled body of authority is necessary, using excessive force against protesters will prove to be a troubling move on the police.

News stories about the police abusing their powers and provoking innocent victims is, and has proved to be, a public relations nightmare. With tragedies like Ferguson and Trayvon Martin, the police in Hong Kong must maintain the safety of their citizens while making sure that they do not cross any lines with the authority of their positions.

The future of Hong Kong is still unknown. The protesters and the government see no resolution in sight, and the uncertainty of the country has serious global implications like what role their economy would play in 2017 and on.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The United Nations Calls for Change at 69th General Assembly

The United Nations met today at the 69th General Assembly in New York. Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon opened the meeting with the current state of the world, covering various topics such as the Ebola outbreak, the struggle in Ukraine, and, importantly for us, the conflict between the United States and ISIS. Lately, it seems that there has been a lot of negative news in the media and the United Nations aims to change the future for the better. From a PR perspective, the United Nations has to maintain goodwill and a system of justice for many countries. They have the difficult task of having to please multiple nations, cultures, and people, all while maintaining the framework of peace and fairness. Ban-Ki Moon also mentioned women's rights, advocating for equally among the sexes. "We cannot fill 100 percent of the world's potential by excluding 50 percent of the world's people," he said. In light of all the domestic violence issues that have been surfacing recently, I think women's rights issues is something that is extremely prominent and important to discuss. One of the golden rules of Public Relations is to tackle issues head on, and Moon did exactly that.

He also addressed the current crisis with ISIS and Syria, approving the United States' airstrikes campaign that began two days ago. Moon called ISIS a "clear threat to international peace and security that requires a multifaceted international response." The United Nations framework was built upon the idea of peace and cooperation between countries. Therefore, if a group poses a threat to international peace, it is the United Nation's job to quell the tension. When there is a conflict between two corporations, the Public Relations director is often responsible for representing the company and acting as a liaison between the company and the public. The United Nations acts as the liaison between ISIS, the United States, as well as the people of both regions. In times of conflict, it is crucial to choose words carefully so not to instigate any further problems. The UN is a perfect example of proceeding cautiously because they have to be able to maintain neutrality.

Finally, one of the biggest epidemics that has been terrorizing West Africa was brought up - Ebola. Ebola has been absolutely devastating for the citizens of Africa, as well as doctors from other countries who graciously volunteered their efforts. The need for care, equipment, and transportation is urgent and the United Nations is making valiant efforts to stop the outbreak, as they should.

Leonardo DiCaprio made a guest appearance to speak out against climate change, asking people to stop pretending that global warming does not exist. The use of a celebrity is definitely a good way to get publicity and is a tool that many public relations firms use, but DiCaprio made a very good point that the world is actually changing and that ice caps are melting far quicker than researchers had originally projected. Overall, the United Nations made positive PR moves in the opening of the General Assembly by attacking issues head on, staying neutral in issues while still enforcing justice, and calling for change and international peace.