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Human Rights Watch: The Politics of Fear


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Sophocles said, ‘To him who is in fear, everything rustles’. How have the politics of fear affected global developments in recent years? Which rustles are real and which are imagined? And who benefits from stoking our anxieties?

In a new Human Rights Watch report, executive director Kenneth Roth identifies fear as a factor in many human rights challenges of our time. Fear of war and torture have driven unprecedented numbers of asylum-seekers from their homes. At the same time, fear has influenced many governments in rich countries to close their borders to those seeking refuge.

Meanwhile, authoritarian governments have become increasingly anxious about the strengthening of civil society with the rise of social media. Civil society, Roth argues, is under more aggressive attack than at any time in recent memory. Fear is behind crackdowns across the world on freedom of speech and expression.

In conversation with Emily Howie, Roth will discuss human rights in an increasingly anxious, interconnected world.


Emily Howie

Emily Howie has worked with the Human Rights Law Centre (HRLC) since 2009 protecting human rights in Australian foreign policy, defending democratic freedoms such as the right to vote as well as anti-racism and minority rights issues.  She also works on accountability for Australia’s actions ... Read more

Kenneth Roth

Kenneth Roth is the executive director of Human Rights Watch, one of the world’s leading international human rights organisations, which operates in more than 90 countries. Prior to joining Human Rights Watch in 1987, Roth served as a federal prosecutor in New York and for the Iran-Contra inve... Read more


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