Thursday, January 30, 2014

Given the significant number of Newsround reports relating to the forthcoming winter games in Sochi, it is quite disappointing to note that the programme has been almost completely silent about homophobia - and not just in Russia.

The issue is, however, concerning the UK Government, as was clear from a report last night on the BBC's News at Ten.

Huw Edwards on BBC News at Ten

Huw Edwards: The Government is to give extra funding to gay rights groups, including Stonewall, operating in Russia. The Winter Olympics start next Friday in the Russian resort of Sochi. But the hostile attitude of the authorities, including a law against the promotion of homosexuality, has overshadowed much of the lead-up to the games. The BBC has learned that the Culture Secretary is to step up British support for gay campaigners amid concerns that homophobic attacks are increasing. This report by our sports editor, David Bond, does contain some images of violence.

David Bond: It was hardly the sort of day for an outdoor performance of Swan Lake. But these ballet dancers outside the Russian Embassy in West London this morning were part of a demonstration against the law which they say oppresses gay people. Today the minister representing the UK Government in Sochi said they wanted to do more to help those calling for change.

Maria Miller: We're already putting in place additional support to make sure that gay rights organisations have got the sort of support and expertise that I think can make a real difference in the work that they're doing on the ground in Russia.

David Bond: This could be seen as quite incendiary though, couldn't it?

David Bond with Maria Miller -Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Maria Miller: I think it's important that we state very clearly that as a country we believe in freedom of speech. We believe in the importance of universal human rights.

Video of protest being violently suppressed by Russian ОМОН police (Отряд мобильный особого назначения)

David Bond: The British Government is channeling funds and support for protests like this through action groups like Stonewall. Activists in Russia welcomed the UK's move.

Nikolai Bayev: The more countries like the United Kingdom provide us with such support the better our fight against homophobia will be here in Russia.

David Bond's report went on to show extremist video footage posted online of gay people being tortured.

David Bond: The Russian president, Vladimir Putin sees the Sochi games as an opportunity to impose Russia on the world stage, projecting him as a leader of a modern and powerful nation. But the very public debate about gay rights has left many wondering whether Putin's Russia is actually going backwards.

Australian snowboarder, Belle Brockhoff, said she wanted to go to Sochi to show that she wasn't intimidated.

David Bond: All Olympics come with political noise. Sochi has had more than most. And how Russia tackles this question of gay rights will have a big bearing on whether the games are seen as a success.

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