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Hollywood and human rights

Do you think Steven Spielberg achieved anything at all with this gesture? Jeremy Paxman asked the Conservative MEP Edward McMillan-Scott last night. Well, Im on Newsnight; thats one improvement, the politician answered, only for Paxman to retort: Thats for the audience to judge I think.

All good knockabout fun but the point McMillan Scott was driving at was a good one. Spielbergs decision to pull out of the Beijing Olympics because of Chinas role in the Darfur crisis put the story right at the top of the news agenda and kicked off an important debate. The story certainly gave us in the media team a very busy day and has resulted in some terrific coverage of AIs concerns on China and Darfur, including in the Times and the Guardian.

Its another example of Hollywood helping to highlight human rights issues. George Clooney was appointed as a UN peace envoy earlier this month. The actor had just returned from Darfur, where he has been campaigning for an end to the conflict, which, since its start in 2003, has claimed the lives of more than 200,000 people and has seen thousands of others maimed, tortured and subjected to sexual violence, with over two million forced to flee their homes.

Not many celebrities carry the sway of Clooney and Spielberg or, indeed, are seen to have their integrity, but many films nevertheless put human rights issues into the public domain, even while remaining true to their pure entertainment role as action pictures. Films like last years Blood Diamond.

Rambo IV, released in the UK next week, sees Sylvester Stallone taking on the Burmese military junta in an attempt to rescue human rights activists trapped near the Thai border.

Were using its release to try and reawaken interest in Burma, which grabbed the front pages last September when thousands of monks took to the streets to protest only to suffer a brutal crackdown.

Amid the blaze of publicity and facing intense political pressure, the military junta made promises that it would fully cooperate with the United Nations and stop its politically-motivated arrests and trials. Instead, Amnesty International is aware of at least 96 new arrests related to the demonstrations last autumn. A further 80 individuals remain unaccounted for and at least 700 people arrested during and since the September protests remain behind bars, while 1,150 political prisoners held prior to the protests have not been released. You can take action here.

Lets hope things have improved before its time for Rambo V.

About Amnesty UK Blogs
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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