Lok Sabha 2024: The influencers driving India’s big election

BBC InfluencersBBCInfluencers like Ranting Gola (left) and Sham Sharma are using their social media presence to promote political parties

Just weeks before the first ballot was cast in this year’s Indian election, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was at an event in Delhi rubbing shoulders with people known by names like BeerBiceps and Curly Tales.

The event – an awards show, congratulating some of the country’s top social media stars on their work – was an acknowledgement of the power of the influencer which a few years ago may have seemed unimaginable.

And as politicians prepared to battle it out for India’s billion votes, these influencers were being lined up to play a crucial role in reaching the young, the disinterested and the disillusioned.

But even as some celebrate social media’s democratisation of the media – a place where any one can share their views freely – others paint a darker picture, one where threats are rife, and the truth can be set aside for the right pay cheque.

A decade ago, you would have struggled to find anyone calling themselves an “influencer”.

But now, says Vinay Deshpande, co-founder of Rajneethi, a political management consultant firm, “it’s become a profession”.

“I know teenagers who are doing this part-time to earn pocket money.”

Pocket money underplays the earning potential somewhat, however. At the lower end, people can charge around 2,000 rupees ($24; £19) a day, but top influencers can pull in about 500,000 rupees for a post – equivalent to the monthly salary of someone in top-level management.

The creator of the Ranting Gola channel revealed to the BBC that political parties and election management firms have offered as much as “100,000 to 500,000 rupees for a single campaign”.

It is no small amount – but then, it could turn the tide in a candidate’s favour.

Presentational grey line

Mr Deshpande says they have helped an opposition candidate win an assembly election by pushing out content through a curated list of local influencers with a small but active following.

“Social media content is powerful and can influence the way a person feels about an issue,” Mr Deshpande says. “It gives social currency to a belief or opinion – but this can lead to a lack of critical thinking about an issue,” he adds.

Preethi Aggarwal, 25, is one of those who turns to apps like Instagram, YouTube and Twitter to help her understand the news.

Like thousands of others, Ms Aggarwal follows a bunch of “political influencers”, or people who talk about politics on social media to “really understand what’s going on”.

“News can get boring and complicated sometimes. I think these people [influencers] make it fun and easier to understand,” she says, adding the context and their own perspective help her form her opinions.

But the problem is, whose perspective is she getting?

PMO India / YouTube InfluencersPMO India / YouTubePM Modi congratulated Ranveer Allahbadia (left, known as BeerBiceps) and other influencers at a recent event

YouTuber Samdish Bhatia reveals numerous politicians have reached out to him, especially in the months before this election, offering him millions of rupees to interview them.

“But they wanted me to share questions in advance or get the video approved before it’s published,” he says, adding that he declined the offers because he “likes to maintain editorial control”.

The particular trend for longer form, slightly chummy interviews – where politicians get to show off their human side – is particularly vulnerable to management, says Joyojeet Pal, an associate professor at the University of Michigan.

“Many of these interviews are carefully managed by politicians,” Mr Pal says.

But even if they aren’t, a gentler style of questioning can also blur the line between interview and promotion, says Mr Pal.

“If your questions aren’t holding power to account, then the interview just becomes a platform for easy publicity.”

But for Mr Pal, this is just one of the problems he sees with politics on social media.

In a recent research paper, he examined some of India’s top influencers and who they interviewed, finding BJP leaders were featured more often than opposition leaders.

His research also found an overall drop in the number of accounts posting content critical of the incumbent government in recent years, while the amount of pro-BJP content had increased.

“This hints at a growing hesitancy among people to be openly critical of the government whereas there seems to be more confidence in putting up polarising content or content that supports the government’s ideologies,” Mr Pal says.

“And this is dangerous for democracy,” he adds.

Getty Images InfluencersGetty ImagesEven in the most remote areas, Indians have access to a mobile phone and internet

Influencers supporting the opposition certainly suggested they were working in a hostile environment.

A number who post content that’s critical of the government declined to speak to the BBC for this piece citing fear of repercussions by the government. They also run their channels under pseudonyms to keep their identities secret.

The Ranting Gola told the BBC that she has often received comments that are abusive or threatening because of the videos she posts and that her Instagram account has been disabled numerous times, even though the platform hasn’t given her a clear reason for doing so.

She also only spoke to the BBC on the condition that her name not be revealed.

The BJP government has denied allegations that it has clamped down on dissent and free speech.

But even pro-BJP YouTuber Sham Sharma told the BBC that freedom of speech could be a problem in India:

0:52YouTuber Sham Sharma talks about the positives and perils of sharing his views online.

But even given these concerns, opposition parties are using the same influencer system to reach voters in what they say is a difficult environment.

“The mainstream media has been taken over by the BJP,” alleges Supriya Srinate, who heads social media for the Congress party.

“Our funds have been frozen; we have no money to advertise,” she adds, referring to action taken by India’s tax department weeks before the elections. Congress leaders have accused the government of political vendetta, but the government has denied the allegation and said that the federal department was doing its job independently.

Influencers, Ms Srinate argues, are a good way to reach voters as a result of these alleged hurdles, explaining the Congress has been working with “volunteers” who believe in the party’s ideology and want to share its work on social media.

Ankit Lal, former political advisor of the opposition Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), agrees that influencers have helped democratise the publicity landscape.

Akash Banerjee, a former journalist who runs the YouTube channel, The DeshBhakt, argues that influencers are also able to push boundaries more than the traditional media can.

He cites the video ‘Is India becoming a dictatorship?’ – made by popular content creator Dhruv Rathee, who is based in Germany – which takes on the government directly, and has been viewed about 24 million times on YouTube so far. The government hasn’t reacted to the video yet.

“After the video, the term ‘dictatorship’ has popped up more in conversations, and this is something that has never happened before,” Mr Banerjee says.

“Our job as influencers may not be to open the window and check if it’s really raining, but we owe it to the nation to take a look outside the window and let people know if dark clouds are approaching and that they can do something about it by voting.”


Bruises and broken ribs – Palestinian deaths in Israeli prisons

Supplied Abdulrahman MariAbdulrahman Mari died in an Israeli prison after 7 October

A few days after Hamas attacked Israel and war erupted in Gaza, Umm Mohamed in the occupied West Bank received a telephone call from her son in an Israeli prison.

“Pray for me mum,” Abdulrahman Mari said. “Things are getting harder here. They might not let me speak to you again”.

It would be the last time she heard his voice.

Conditions deteriorated for Palestinian prisoners in Israel after 7 October last year, when Hamas mounted its deadly assault on Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip, according to the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority’s (PA) Commission of Detainees Affairs.

Thirteen Palestinian prisoners have since died in Israeli prisons, “the majority of them as a result of beating or denial of medication”, the commission’s head, Qadoura Fares, told the BBC.

Abdulrahman was one of the first to die.

A carpenter in the village of Qarawat Bani Hassan, he had been on his way back home from work in Ramallah in February last year when he was arrested at a mobile checkpoint. He was taken into administrative detention – under which Israel can hold people indefinitely without charge – in Megiddo prison.

His brother Ibrahim said the charges against him were minor, such as taking part in protests and possessing a firearm, but said he was also accused of belonging to Hamas although there were no specific charges about any activities within the group.

Ibrahim is still trying to piece together how exactly his brother died. He has to rely on testimony from Abdulrahman’s former cellmates, as well as reports from court hearings.

One former cellmate, who spoke to the BBC on condition of anonymity, said: “After 7 October, it was total torture. They beat us for no reason, they searched us for no reason. Even if you look at someone the wrong way.”

He described having seen Abdulrahman heavily beaten in front of him and others.

“At 9am, they came into our cell, and began to beat us. One of the guards began to insult Abdulrahman’s parents, which he didn’t stand for, and he began to fight back.

“They beat him badly, and took him away to another cell upstairs for a week. During that time you could hear him crying out in pain.”

He said he had only found out about Abdulrahman’s death after he left prison a week later.

The Israeli prison service did not directly address the BBC’s questions about Abdulrahman’s death or those of the 12 other named Palestinians that the Commission of Detainees Affairs says have died, saying only: “We are not familiar with the claims described and as far as we know they are not true.”

Getty Images israeli vehicles in Balata in the west bankGetty ImagesIsrael has detained thousands of West Bank Palestinians since 7 October

Professor Danny Rosin, a doctor from the group Physicians for Human Rights, attended the examination of Abdulrahman Mari’s body. His remarks corroborate what Abdulrahman’s cellmate and brother told the BBC.

Prof Rosin’s report mentioned that bruises had been seen over Abdulrahman’s left chest, and that he had several broken ribs. External bruises were also seen on the back, buttocks, left arm and thigh, as well as the right side of the head and neck with no fractures underneath.

It also quoted an additional police report which had mentioned “forceful restraint” being used on Mr Mari six days before his death.

Professor Rosin said in the report that while no specific cause of death had been found, “one may assume that the violence he suffered manifested by the multiple bruises and multiple severe rib fractures contributed to his death”.

He also added that “irregular pulse” or a “heart attack” could result from these injuries without leaving any physical evidence.

Israel currently holds more than 9,300 security prisoners, the vast majority of whom are Palestinians according to the Israeli rights group HaMoked, including more than 3,600 people in administrative detention.

These figures do not include detainees from the Gaza Strip being held in separate facilities by the Israeli military.

Mr Qadoura says the change after 7 October “affected every aspect of the prisoners’ lives”, alleging that prisoners have been subjected to starvation and thirst and some of those with chronic illnesses were denied their medication. Beatings became more regular and more brutal.

“I met a detainee who’d lost 20kg in the last three months,” he said.

“It’s as if the war on Gaza was also a war on Palestinian prisoners. It was all a form of revenge.”

Yasser Hamdan and a pic of his son

Arafat Hamdan was dead within two days of his arrest

The BBC has previously heard from Palestinian prisoners who described being hit with sticks, having muzzled dogs set on them and having their clothes, food and blankets taken away in the weeks after 7 October.

The Israeli prison service has denied any mistreatment, saying that “all prisoners are held in accordance with the law while respecting their basic rights and under the supervision of a professional and skilled prison staff”.

It said prisons had gone into “emergency mode” after war broke out and it had been “decided to reduce the living conditions of the security prisoners”. Examples it gave included removing electrical equipment and cutting electricity to cells and reducing prisoners’ activities in the wings.

In the West Bank village of Beit Sira, Arafat Hamdan’s father showed where Israeli police officers had kicked the door of his family home and stormed in at 04:00 on 22 October looking for his son.

Police covered his son’s face with a thick black cloth and closed it around his neck with a rope. The mask smelled strongly, he said, and Arafat clearly had a hard time breathing with it on.

“I kept trying to comfort him.” Yasser Hamdan told the BBC. “It’s ok. They have nothing against you. They have nothing against us. I kept telling him that as they tied him up outside the house. Then they took him.”

Two days later a phone call came. Arafat had been found dead in his cell in Ofer prison in the West Bank.

Israeli authorities have not explained how he died. Arafat had Type 1 diabetes and would suffer from low blood sugar levels from time to time.

His father said one of the police officers arresting Arafat had told him to bring medicine with him, but it was unclear if he had been able to.

The BBC obtained a report by Dr Daniel Solomon, a surgeon who was present at the post mortem of Arafat Hamdan at the request of Physicians for Human Rights.

Dr Solomon said it had been carried out in Israel on 31 October but added that the condition of the body, due to prolonged refrigeration, had made it harder to determine the cause of death.

He also noted the absence of any records showing if Arafat’s diabetes medication had been administered and at what dosing.

The report also mentioned the need for other tests beyond the post mortem to determine the cause of death.

“Until now we don’t know how he died. Nothing is clear.” Yasser Hamdan said.

Umm Mohamed

Umm Mohammed said Abdulrahman had become a leader of his group of prisoners before his death

Neither Arafat’s nor Abdulrahman’s bodies have yet been returned. Their families want to arrange their own post mortems, hold funerals, and say a final goodbye.

“He was my flesh and blood. Then he was gone in a moment,” Yasser Hamdan said. Photos of his son were everywhere you looked in his apartment.

Umm Mohamed showed photos of Abdulrahman on her phone, pointing to one and saying: “Look at him. He was so cheerful.”

Over time he had become a leader in his group of prisoners, she said.

“He’d call me when he was making breakfast for them when they were all still asleep. He was always the most active. He would never sit still, that boy.”

She broke down. “Bring him back to me. I want to see him one last time. One last look.”


Pengemudi ojol dapat THR, harapan palsu atau bisa diberikan?

Ratusan pengemudi ojek online menggelar aksi demonstrasi di depan Istana Jakarta yang isinya mendesak pemerintah melindungi hak-hak mereka.
Keterangan gambar,Ratusan pengemudi ojek online menggelar aksi demonstrasi di depan Istana Jakarta pada tahun 2018 yang isinya mendesak pemerintah melindungi hak-hak mereka.

Kementerian Ketenagakerjaan dan pakar hukum perburuhan meminta perusahaan aplikasi memberikan Tunjangan Hari Raya (THR) kepada pekerjanya meskipun status mereka mitra atau pekerja di luar hubungan kerja.

Pakar perburuhan dari UGM, Nabiyla Risfa Izzati, mengatakan tunjangan hari raya tak bisa dipandang sempit sebatas aturan hukum saja. Tapi itu adalah hak pekerja yang semestinya diberikan terlepas apakah orang tersebut mempunyai hubungan kerja atau tidak.

Apalagi keberadaan mereka, sambung Nabiyla, telah menggerakkan ekonomi digital di Indonesia dan jumlahnya terus bertambah.

Menanggapi hal ini Chief of Public Affairs Grab Indonesia, Tirza R. Munusamy, berkata pihaknya menyediakan insentif khusus hari raya Idulfitri yang akan diberikan kepada para mitra di hari pertama dan kedua lebaran. Namun dia tidak menjelaskan bentuk insentif tersebut.

Sementara itu, seorang pengemudi ojek daring menyatakan sebagai ujung tombak ekonomi digital sudah sepantasnya mereka menerima THR.

‘Tujuh tahun loyal tapi enggak dihargai’

Pengemudi ojek online di kawasan Jakarta Pusat, Afung, mengaku senang sekaligus gundah tiap kali jelang hari raya Idulfitri.

Senang karena jelang Lebaran biasanya pesanan berupa barang yang harus diantar ke rumah konsumen bakal membludak, tapi di sisi lain dia merasa jerih payahnya tak dihargai.

Ia bercerita sudah tujuh tahun bekerja sebagai mitra pengemudi di salah satu perusahaan aplikasi terbesar di Indonesia, namun tak pernah sekalipun mendapatkan insentif atau uang penghargaan atas loyalitasnya selama ini.

Sementara tiap kali Idulfitri, dia selalu berharap menerima tunjangan layaknya pekerja lain di Jakarta.

“Harusnya [dapat THR] karena misalnya nih saya sudah tujuh tahun lebih kerja di sini. Tidak pernah dapat masalah, barang yang dikirim enggak pernah hilang semahal apapun. Harusnya orang kayak saya dong yang diperhatikan,” ujar Afung kepada BBC News Indonesia.

“Apalagi sekarang harga-harga kebutuhan sehari-hari makin mahal,” sambungnya.

Pengemudi ojek online sedang menunggu pesanan.
Keterangan gambar,Pengemudi ojek online sedang menunggu pesanan.

Afung hanya punya satu aplikasi dan menjadi tumpuannya mencari duit.

Ia bercerita pesanan yang masuk ke telepon genggamnya tak pasti. Ada kalanya ramai, tapi kadang sepi.

Dia masih ingat di pekan lalu, selama tiga hari berturut-turut sama sekali tak dapat satupun pesanan penumpang maupun antar barang.

Afung mengaku tak tahu pasti apa penyebabnya, apakah karena sinyal atau sistem pesanan si aplikasi yang bermasalah.

“Siang ini baru dapat dua penumpang… minggu lalu tiga hari berturut-turut kosong. Minggu sebelumnya lagi cuma dapat Rp300.000 padahal wajarnya Rp600.000.”

Yang bikin tambah jengkel, potongan untuk aplikasi belum juga turun alias masih 20%. Padahal ketentuan Kementerian Perhubungan, biaya sewa penggunaan aplikasi sebesar 15%.

“Dikurangin kek 5% atau 10%, itu aja enggak mau. Enggak mau rugi [aplikasi]. Padahal kita yang cari pesanan, kasih pemasukan ke mereka, modal pribadi.”

Tapi Afung masih menaruh harapan pendapatannya meningkat di hari raya kali ini. Sebab kebiasaan dari tahun ke tahun, dua minggu jelang Lebaran pesanan yang masuk bisa tiga atau empat kali lipat dari biasanya.

“Pesanan antar barang banyak kalau sudah mau lebaran. Mungkin kurirnya ada yang mudik kan, jadi pesanan paker dari e-commerce masuk.”

Pengemudi ojek online mengantre di sebuah toko makanan.
Keterangan gambar,Pengemudi ojek online mengantre di sebuah toko makanan.

Pengemudi ojek daring lainnya, Vicky, juga berharap menerima tunjangan hari raya dari perusahaan aplikasi tempatnya bekerja.

Bapak dua anak ini mengaku bergabung dengan salah satu aplikator terbesar di Indonesia sejak 2018. Selama itu, akunnya tak pernah dibekukan.

“Memang kita sudah dibayar oleh konsumen, tapi [kalau dapat THR] bakal membantu banget pengemudi yang istilahnya lagi susah,” ucap Vicky.

“Cuma saya yakin enggak bakalan [dikasih THR]. Tinggal pemerintahnya kuat enggak melawan perusahaan aplikasi itu.”

Kini Vicky hanya bisa berusaha bagaimana mendapatkan pesanan lebih banyak. Meskipun tak memasang target, namun setidaknya setiap hari bisa membawa pulang uang Rp100.000-Rp200.000.

Belum lagi menjelang Idulfitri.

“[Pesanan] pasti lebih banyak, soalnya aktivitas tambah banyak kayak pengantaran paket… biasanya yang non-muslim kadang kasih bingkisan ke teman-temannya. Biasanya seminggu sebelum Lebaran, mulai banyak orderan.”

Aturan THR kepada pengemudi ojek online memberikan harapan palsu

Dirjen Pembinaan Hubungan Industrial dan Jaminan Sosial Ketenagakerjaan di Kemnaker, Indah Anggoro Putri, sebelumnya mengatakan pengemudi ojek daring dan kurir berhak mendapatkan THR keagamaan.

Dia merujuk pernyataanya pada Surat Edaran Menteri Ketenagakerjaan nomor 2 tahun 2024 tentang pelaksanaan pemberian THR keagamaan bagi pekerja/buruh di perusahaan.

Di Surat Edaran tersebut tertulis bahwa THR keagamaan bagi pekerja merupakan upaya untuk memenuhi kebutuhan pekerja/buruh dan keluarganya dalam menyambut hari raya keagamaan.

Pegemudi ojol mengantar barang dari pusat perbelanjaan.
Keterangan gambar,Pegemudi ojol mengantar barang dari pusat perbelanjaan.

Lebih rinci, berdasarkan Peraturan Pemerintah nomor 36 tahun 2021 tentang pengupahan dan Permen Ketenagakerjaan nomor 6 tahun 2016 tentang THR maka pemberian THR merupakan kewajiban yang harus dilaksanakan oleh pengusaha kepada pekerja/buruh.

Pemberian THR tersebut, menurut surat itu, dilaksanakan dengan ketentuan THR diberikan kepada:

  • a. Pekerja/buruh yang telah mem[unyai masa kerja satu bulan secara terus menerus atau lebih.
  • b. Pekerja/buruh yang mempunyai hubungan kerja dengan pengusaha berdasarkan perjanjian kerja waktu tidak tertentu atau perjanjian kerja waktu tertentu.

Tunjangan tersebut wajib dibayarkan paling lama tujuh hari sebelum hari raya.

Pakar hukum perburuhan dari Universitas Gajah Mada (UGM) Yogyakarta, Nabiyla Risfa Izzati, mengatakan kalau membaca surat edaran itu maka sebetulnya tidak ada perubahan berarti dari surat yang diterbitkan tahun sebelumnya.

Isi surat tersebut, katanya, “tidak mencerminkan pernyataan bahwa pekerja di luar hubungan kerja seperti pengemudi ojek daring atau kurir logistik bisa mendapatkan THR.”

Sebab yang diatur hanya pekerja kontrak, karyawan tetap, dan pekerja harian lepas.

“Jadi soal ruang lingkup dan siapa yang bisa mendapatkan THR, sama saja aturannya seperti yang sudah-sudah. Di mana pengemudi ojek online tidak masuk kriteria itu. Saya melihat pernyataan Ibu Dirjen misleading, memberikan harapan palsu,” jelas Nabiyla kepada BBC News Indonesia.

Kendati demikian, Nabiyla berkata pengemudi ojek online semestinya bisa mendapatkan THR karena bagaimanapun itu adalah hak pekerja pada umumnya.

Dirjen Pembinaan Hubungan Industrial dan Jaminan Sosial Ketenagakerjaan di Kemnaker, Indah Anggoro Putri, sebelumnya mengatakan pengemudi ojek daring dan kurir berhak mendapatkan THR keagamaan.
Keterangan gambar,Dirjen Pembinaan Hubungan Industrial dan Jaminan Sosial Ketenagakerjaan di Kemnaker, Indah Anggoro Putri, sebelumnya mengatakan pengemudi ojek daring dan kurir berhak mendapatkan THR keagamaan.

Terlepas apakah pekerja tersebut mempunyai hubungan kerja atau tidak.

“Maka pemberian THR harus dilihat dalam karakterisasi mereka sebagai pekerja dan itu adalah hak pekerja mendapatkan tunjangan hari raya di Indonesia.”

Nabiyla juga menjelaskan, pemberian THR merupakan bagian penting dari perlindungan pekerja. Ketika mereka tidak mendapatkan, maka situasi pekerja semakin berbahaya.

Apalagi menurutnya, keberadaan bisnis seperti Gojek atau Grab sudah bertahun-tahun di Indonesia. Yang artinya dari kacamata ekonomi digital sudah bisa dibilang “suistain“.

Itu mengapa dia menilai perusahaan aplikasi seharusnya memberikan THR.

“Karena ini soal kemauan pemberi kerja. Kebijakan untuk memberikan perlindungan bagi pekerja sangat mungkin dilakukan. Selama ini mereka mengeklaim sudah memberikan insentif-insentif, tapi kita tidak tahu apakah benar dilakukan.”

“Sayangnya selama bukan kewajiban, maka pekerja tidak bisa menuntut platform memberikan insentif lebaran atau THR.”

Nabiyla mendesak Kemnaker untuk segera menggolkan peraturan yang melegalkan status mereka sebagai tenaga kerja di luar hubungan kerja, bukan lagi mitra.

Dengan begitu hak-hak mereka memperoleh jaminan keselamatan kerja bisa diperoleh. Termasuk tunjangan hari raya.

“Kita sudah terlalu dalam berada di kekosongan hukum soal hubungan kemitraan yang bermasalah. Bahwa mereka tidak punya perlindungan apapun.”

Meski belum terdapat data pasti, laporan Fairwork Indonesia menyebutkan terdapat lebih dari 2,5 juta pekerja gig berbasis sepeda motor dan seperlima dari populasi Indonesia pernah menggunakan salah satu dari layanan besar berbasis sepeda motor.

Laporan lain menunjukkan jumlah total pengemudi ride-hailing (berbagi tumpangan) di semua platform di Indonesia mencapai empat juta pada tahun 2020.

Angka itu, menurut Fairwork Indonesia, mewakili 5% dari angkatan kerja Indonesia –jumlah yang sangat besar dengan mayoritas pekerja tinggal di perkotaan.

“Bayangkan sudah jumlah pekerjanya terus bertambah, tapi pemerintahnya malah tidak peduli,” tutur Nabiyla.

Masak sih enggak mau berbagi?’

Staf Khusus Menteri Ketenagakerjaan, Dita Indah Sari, mengakui Surat Edaran teranyar itu memang tidak memuat kewajiban pemberian THR kepada pengemudi ojek daring.

Sebab yang diatur hanya pekerja kontrak, karyawan tetap, dan pekerja harian lepas. Intinya pekerja yang mempunya hubungan kerja, kata Dita.

Tapi terlepas dari itu, dia menilai pekerja seperti pengemudi ojek daring maupun kurir semestinya menerima tunjangan.

Staf Khusus Menteri Ketenagakerjaan, Dita Indah Sari, mengakui Surat Edaran teranyar itu memang tidak memuat kewajiban pemberian THR kepada pengemudi ojek daring.
Keterangan gambar,Staf Khusus Menteri Ketenagakerjaan, Dita Indah Sari, mengakui Surat Edaran teranyar itu memang tidak memuat kewajiban pemberian THR kepada pengemudi ojek daring.

“Kasihan kan mereka enggak dapat. Kami tiap tahun terus mengimbau perusahaan aplikator untuk memberikan THR kepada para ojolnya, apapun bentuknya, berapa jumlahnya, dan bagaimana mekanismenya silakan disepakati bersama,” jelas Dita kepada BBC News Indonesia.

“Ya paling tidak nilainya sesuai kepantasan.”

Dita mengeklaim pihaknya telah melakukan pendekatan kepada sejumlah perusahaan aplikasi maupun jasa kurir agar mau memberikan tunjangan atau insentif.

Toh, katanya, jelang Idulfitri perusahaan-perusahaan itu akan mendapatkan pemasukan lebih besar karena banyaknya pengantaran dan pesanan.

Masak sih enggak mau berbagi? Ini ada jutaan keluarga mau mudik pakai motor, masak enggak bantu?”

Menanggapi hal ini, Chief of Public Affairs Grab Indonesia, Tirza R. Munusamy, mengatakan sesuai dengan Permenaker nomor 6 tahun 2016 tentang THR Keagamaan, Grab Indonesia akan memberikan tunjangan hari raa kepada pekerja yang mempunyai hubungan kerja konvensional dalam bentuk Perjanjian Kerja Waktu Tertentu (PKWT) dan Perjanjian Kerja Waktu Tidak Tertentu (PKWTT).

Namun, sambungnya, dalam semangat kekeluargaan di bulan yang baik ini, Grab menyediakan insentif khusus hari raya Idulfitri yang akan diberikan kepada para mitra di hari pertama dan kedua Lebaran.

Hal ini, sebutnya, juga sesuai dengan imbauan dari Kemnaker bahwa bentuk, besaran, serta mekanisme tunjangan hari raya dapat diberikan dalam berbagai bentuk dan disesuaikan oleh masing-masing aplikator.

Hanya saja, dia tidak menjelaskan dengan rinci bentuk insentif khusus yang diberikan kepada mitra pengemudinya.

Apa nasib Permenaker yang melegalkan status pengemudi ojol?

Pada tahun lalu, Kementerian Ketenagakerjaan sudah merampungkan Permenaker tentang perlindungan tenaga kerja luar hubungan kerja pada layanan angkutan berbasis aplikasi.

Aturan tersebut akan menjadi standar baku untuk menyusun perjanjian kerja atau kontrak antara platform dengan pengemudi atau kurir.

Semisal pengaturan jam kerja yang tidak boleh melebihi 12 jam tiap hari, pengemudi ojol berhak atas libur dan waktu istirahat.

Kemudian pengemudi ojol mesti didaftarkan sebagai peserta jaminan sosial ketenagakerjaan untuk memberikan perlindungan.

Akan tetapi sumber BBC News Indonesia mengungkapkan bahwa Permenaker itu ditolak oleh para pengusaha yang tergabung di Kadin dan Kominfo.

Alasannya kata sumber tersebut karena diklaim akan membuat usaha kecil dan menengah atau UMKM tidak bertumbuh lantaran harga produk yang dijual bakal lebih mahal. https://blejermot.com/

Mary Poppins film age rating raised over ‘discriminatory language’

Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews
Image caption,Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews starred in the film

By Helen Bushby

Culture reporter

Mary Poppins, the classic film starring Julie Andrews, has had its age rating raised by British film censors because it features “discriminatory language”.

The 1964 film has been reclassified from a U, which stands for universal, to a PG, for parental guidance.

In it, a derogatory term originally used by white Europeans about nomadic peoples in southern Africa is used to refer to soot-faced chimney-sweeps.

That now “exceeds our guidelines” for U films, the BBFC said.

The film is set in London in 1910 and follows a magical nanny, played by Dame Julie, who looks after a family’s children with the help of Bert, a busking chimney-sweep played by Dick Van Dyke.

It won five Oscars in 1965, including best actress and best song.

Mary Poppins

In the film, Admiral Boom, a neighbour and Naval veteran who thinks he is still in charge of a ship, uses the word twice.

The British Board of Film Classification said it classified the film in 1964 and then again for a re-release in 2013.

“Most recently, the film was resubmitted to us in February 2024 for another theatrical re-release, and we reclassified it PG for discriminatory language,” a spokesperson said.

“Mary Poppins (1964) includes two uses of the discriminatory term ‘hottentots’.

“While Mary Poppins has a historical context, the use of discriminatory language is not condemned, and ultimately exceeds our guidelines for acceptable language at U. We therefore classified the film PG for discriminatory language.”

The Oxford English Dictionary says the term, which referred to the Khoikhoi and San people, is “generally considered both archaic and offensive”.

The BBFC said its research about racism and discrimination showed that a key concern for people, particularly parents, was “the potential to expose children to discriminatory language or behaviour which they may find distressing or repeat without realising the potential offence”.

The organisation says a PG rating “should not unsettle a child aged around eight or older” and that “unaccompanied children of any age may watch, but parents are advised to consider whether the content may upset younger, or more sensitive, children.

A U rating means a film should be “suitable for audiences aged four years and over” although the website adds “it is impossible to predict what might upset any particular child”.

sequel to the first film starring Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda was released in 2018, and it has also been a also a West End show in London.https://blejermot.com/

Kim Petras on sexual liberation and fighting TikTok

Kim Petras promotional photo, showing the singer in a sequinned top emblazoned with the word "Problematique"
Image caption,Kim Petras has been releasing music since she was 12 years old, achieving mainstream success with her Sam Smith collaboration Unholy in 2022

By Mark Savage

BBC Music Correspondent

You probably shouldn’t play Kim Petras’s new EP to your mum.

Titled Slut Pop Miami, it’s an outrageous, sex-positive, club-ready tribute to the joys of carnal pleasure.

Released on Valentines’ Day, it was inspired by “hedonistic trips to Miami” and joins a lineage of explicit, transgressive pop, from Madonna’s Erotica to Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s WAP.

“Stirring up the culture and raising eyebrows has been in the DNA of pop forever,” Petras tells the BBC.

The EP is the German-born star’s third release since last June, following her debut album Feed The Beast and Problématique, a surprise release of an earlier, scrapped project.


This flurry of activity followed her appearance on Sam Smith’s global chart-topper Unholy – which made Petras the first openly transgender artist to have a US number one and the first trans artist to win a major category Grammy.

Her mainstream breakout followed years of hard graft. Petras started uploading cover songs to MySpace in 2007, and later gambled on a move to Los Angeles in the hope of becoming a pop star.

“I played every gay club in America, I danced on every single bar and I built my following from the ground up,” she says.

“I didn’t have my breakthrough until Unholy but, to get to that stage, I had to release multiple songs as an independent artist and prove to record labels that there’s a fanbase out there for me.”

That determination paid off. Now signed to Republic Records (home to Taylor Swift and Ariana Grande), she’s in the middle of a sold-out, 40-date world tour.

On a rare day off, Petras called the BBC to reflect on her career to date.

Kim Petras pictured at BBC Radio One in February 2023
Image caption,The singer’s biggest songs include I Don’t Want It At All, Heart To Break and Coconuts

Hey Kim! Are we interrupting your vocal rest?

Not today, I have a bunch of things lined up. But usually, between shows, I just shut up for two whole days. It’s the only thing that works for singers who actually sing.

Ah yes, you have a policy of never miming. How come?

I just feel ripped off if I go to a show and the artist isn’t singing.

When you sing live, it makes the show different every night. Your performance reflects the energy of the crowd. If they’re into it, you’re going to hit all the high notes and do all the crazy runs. And knowing that gives the fans motivation to go crazy as well.

It helps that you have a really strong voice…

Well, I’ve always been really loud! I used to get in trouble with my neighbours because I love diva singers like Freddie Mercury or Cher, so it felt right for me to sing big.

How did you train yourself to emulate Cher?

Well, at first, you blow out your voice a bunch, until you realise you’re screaming and doing it wrong. I used to sing from my throat a lot – for us Germans the “R” sounds are in our throats. Then you adjust and learn to sing from your body, not your throat.

But thank God, I had a voice to work with in the beginning. My parents taught me a lot, too. My dad’s an architect, but he plays eight instruments and was always off to band rehearsals. And my mum was really into jazz, so there was a lot of Billie Holiday in the house.

Kim Petras performs on stage in 2023
Image caption,The singer’s world tour wraps in her home country of Germany next month

It’s nice to hear that. So many interviews about your childhood focus on your gender transition, but music was always important?

Absolutely. I was always singing. Music was my happy place and honestly very helpful in my transition. I went through that stuff very early [Petras completed gender reassignment surgery at 16] and music allowed me to sing and twirl and forget about how the world reacted to me.

Once I started learning how to write, it immediately became my job. I figured, OK, you live in the middle of nowhere, no-one’s going to write songs for you, so you’d better learn to do it yourself.

I wanted to be like an Indiana Jones of music and find the magic formula to pop.

Does that explain why your songs are so upbeat and escapist, even now?

Totally. I think there’s a double standard in music where the stuff that gets taken seriously is sad and depressed, because those emotions are so hard. But a lot of the time, I feel very depressed and the way to get myself out of it is to write a ridiculous song. If I write a sad one, it’s just going to make me sadder.

So, for me, making happy songs, or slutty songs, takes just as much effort as writing a slow ballad. Just because it doesn’t seem like there’s any hurt or pain going into the creation of that, it doesn’t mean it’s not there.

Can you imagine a time where you would write about the things you went through as a teenager?

I try to stay away from the past. I find the past quite useless. I’m more focused on new and exciting things. But yeah, I definitely feel like, after releasing so many different projects, I need to go down new routes. Maybe it would be more about the stuff I’m currently going through, rather than the past.

Kim Petras holds aloft a dagger in a promotional image for her debut albun, Feed The Beast, in June 2023
Image caption,The star embraces hedonism on her Slut Pop project and played the character of a serial killer on her Halloween-themed Turn Off The Light mixtape

The lyrics on Slut Pop aren’t especially deep, but the idea of relishing and celebrating sex still feels quite radical in pop. Why do you think that is?

It’s something I feel strongly about. I’ve always been surrounded by incredible women. Even at school, the people who stood up for me and understood my condition were female.

And I think men’s desire to control women’s bodies has been the plague of this planet forever. It very much goes hand in hand with being transgender. The people who wanted to forbid me to transition are the same ones who want to forbid women to have abortions or have sex and even make money from it.

I’m a big fan of Madonna’s work, and I feel like, when she celebrated sex in Erotica and her Sex book, people misunderstood it as just filth. But female sexuality isn’t filth, and it shouldn’t be written off like that. Neither is trans-feminine sexuality or anyone’s sexuality. I think everybody should be equal.

That’s not to say Slut Pop is a big political statement. It’s supposed to just be fun, but the conversation it stirs up is a good thing.

A lot of the Slut Pop songs have blown up on TikTok. What are your thoughts on Universal Music removing music, including yours, from the app while they argue over royalty payments?

I feel very protected by Universal. I know people who have number one records and can’t afford their rent, so I’m proud Universal is taking a stand.

Of course, right now, all of us Universal artists are screwed a little bit, but you’ve gotta take one for the team. The intentions are noble. It’s about musicians making money from their art – and not just the famous faces, but the songwriters and the people behind the scenes. I feel like it’s a really good fight.

Kim Petras and Sam Smith accept the Grammy Award for best pop duo/group performance in Los Angeles, 2023
Image caption,Kim Petras and Sam Smith won the Grammy Award for best pop duo/group performance last year, and were introduced on stage by Madonna

When royalty payments are so low, do you ever think about going back to your first job and writing advertising jingles?

Me and my friends still make jingles all the time, just for fun. And if I ever had a stroke of genius and came up with something where I’m like, ‘This has laundry detergent written all over it’, then, for sure, I’m not above it.

And about the money thing: I know what it’s like to struggle and be a songwriter who lives on a studio couch and goes a year without getting any songs released but, at the end of the day, as long as I can write music, I’m happy. The money part is really for my fans. I want to put on the best show for them.

You’re opening the Euro 2024 football tournament this summer. What can you tell us about that?

I’m over the moon about it. Soccer is such a big part of German culture, so it feels like a huge deal. I have so many memories of watching matches with my friends and getting absolutely hammered, so it’s gonna be crazy!https://blejermot.com/

Plus, the opening match is Germany v Scotland, so there’ll be a lot of kilts in the stadium.

Germany legalises cannabis, but makes it hard to buy

A costumed cannabis supporter holds a banner against prohibition during the annual Hemp Parade on August 12, 2023 in Berlin, Germany
Image caption,Police in some areas of Germany, including Berlin, already turn a blind eye to smoking of cannabis in public

By Damien McGuinness

BBC News, Berlín

The German parliament has backed a new law to allow the recreational use of cannabis.

Under the law, over-18s in Germany will be allowed to possess substantial amounts of cannabis, but strict rules will make it difficult to buy the drug.

Smoking cannabis in many public spaces will become legal from 1 April.

Possession of up to 25g, equivalent to dozens of strong joints, is to be allowed in public spaces. In private homes the legal limit will be 50g.

Already police in some parts of Germany, such as Berlin, often turn a blind eye to smoking in public, although possession of the drug for recreational use is illegal and can be prosecuted. 

Use of the drug among young people has been soaring for years despite the existing law, says Health Minister Karl Lauterbach, who is instigating the reforms.


He wants to undermine the black market, protect smokers from contaminated cannabis and cut revenue streams for organised crime gangs.

But legal cannabis cafes will not suddenly spring up all over the country.

A ferocious debate about decriminalising cannabis has been raging for years in Germany, with doctors’ groups expressing concerns for young people and conservatives saying that liberalisation will fuel drug use.

After a stormy session on Friday in the Bundestag, Germany’s parliament, the vote was eventually passed by 407 votes to 226.

Simone Borchardt of the opposition conservative CDU told MPs that the government had gone ahead with its “completely unnecessary, confused law” regardless of warnings from doctors, police and psychotherapists.

But Mr Lauterbach said the current situation was no longer tenable: “The number of consumers aged between 18 and 25 has doubled in the past 10 years.”

After the vote he said the law would “dry out the black market” and fix “a failed drug policy”.

As so often in Germany, the law approved by MPs is complicated.

Smoking cannabis in some areas, such as near schools and sports grounds, will still be illegal. Crucially, the market will be strictly regulated so buying the drug will not be easy.

Original plans to allow licensed shops and pharmacies to sell cannabis have been scrapped over EU concerns that this could lead to a surge in drug exports.

Instead, non-commercial members’ clubs, dubbed “cannabis social clubs”, will grow and distribute a limited amount of the drug.

Each club will have an upper limit of 500 members, consuming cannabis onsite will not be allowed, and membership will only be available to German residents.

Growing your own cannabis will also be permitted, with up to three marijuana plants allowed per household.

This means that Germany could be in the paradoxical position of allowing possession of rather large amounts of the drug, while at the same time making it difficult to purchase.

Regular smokers would benefit, but occasional users would struggle to buy it legally and tourists would be excluded. Critics say this will simply fuel the black market.

Over the next few years, the government wants to assess the impact of the new law, and eventually introduce the licensed sale of cannabis.

But given how tortuous the debate has been so far, nothing is certain.

Meanwhile, opposition conservatives say that if they get into government next year, they will scrap the law entirely. Germany is unlikely to become Europe’s new Amsterdam anytime soon.https://blejermot.com/

Pep Guardiola: Man City boss believes Man Utd ‘will be back’ with help of Sir Jim Ratcliffe

Pep Guardiola
Manchester City have finished above Manchester United in the Premier League in each of Pep Guardiola’s six full seasons at Etihad Stadium

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola believes Manchester United “will be back” with the help of new investor Sir Jim Ratcliffe.

Ratcliffe’s deal to buy a 27.7% stake in Manchester United was completed on 20 February.


The British billionaire says he hopes United can knock cross-city rivals City “off their perch”.

Responding to the comments, Guardiola said: “As [soon] as the teams admit it they will be closer to us.”

The 53-year-old Catalan added: “If they want to deny it for things that are not the reality then it’s their problem – it’s not our problem.

“When I’ve been below teams I’ve always admired them and thought about what we need to do to be close, to challenge them.

“When we were below and United were winning, we were watching them, admiring them. That’s why, for

these type of comments, that I have the feeling that they will be back.”

Guardiola has led Manchester City to the Premier League title in each of the past three seasons, and in five of his six completed campaigns at Etihad Stadium.

City won the Treble of Champions League, Premier League and FA Cup in 2022-23 and Guardiola has won 14 major trophies since taking charge in the summer of 2016.

Manchester United have won three trophies since Guardiola arrived across the city but new investor Ratcliffe has high hopes of bridging that gap in the near future.

Speaking to BBC Sport earlier this week, Ratcliffe spoke about building a new state-of-the-art stadium close to the current Old Trafford ground, while he also revealed an ambition to develop the squad as they attempt to become more competitive on all fronts.

Guardiola, speaking before Saturday’s Premier League trip to Bournemouth, said: “It’s not about [being] worried. I’m pretty sure with Sir Jim Ratcliffe and the other people that United are going to take a step forwards.

“I feel that they know exactly what they have to do, appoint the people they need to appoint with their experience in the business world to make projects better.

“But that is normal. It’s not just United – all the teams want it. We want to be there and as long as I’m here, we will try to be there again.

“What I want is Man City, my team, being there. The rest, I don’t care.”

Manchester City are second in the Premier League and four points behind leaders Liverpool, although they have a game in hand, while Manchester United are sixth.https://blejermot.com/

Dani Alves trial: Ex-Brazil player guilty of nightclub rape

Brazilian soccer player Dani Alves sits in the dock during his trial for alleged sexual assault at Barcelona's Court in Barcelona, Spain, 05 February 2024.
Image caption,Dani Alves was first arrested in January 2023 and has been in pre-trial detention ever since

By Vanessa Buschschlüter

BBC News

A court in Spain has found former Barcelona and Brazil footballer Dani Alves guilty of raping a woman in a Barcelona nightclub.

He has been sentenced to four and a half years in prison.

The 40-year-old, who is one of the most decorated footballers in history, had denied sexually assaulting the woman in the early hours of 31 December 2022.

His lawyer had asked for his acquittal and said she would appeal against the verdict.

A lawyer for the victim welcomed the verdict, saying that it “recognises what we have always known: the truth [as told] by the victim and the suffering there has been”.


As well as handing Alves a four-and-a-half year sentence, the court said he should face a further five years’ probation.

The prosecution had asked for a nine-year prison sentence. In Spain, a claim of rape is investigated under the general accusation of sexual assault, and convictions can lead to prison sentences of four to 15 years.

According to Spanish media, the court took into account Alves’s decision to pay the victim €150,000 (£128,500) in damages regardless of the outcome of the trial when it decided on the length of his prison term.

The court did not, however, accept the argument put forward by his lawyers that he should be given a more lenient sentence because he was drunk.

His wife Joana Sanz, 31, said he had appeared very drunk when he got back to their Barcelona home the night of the rape and had bumped into furniture before collapsing on the bed.

But the court argued that his alcohol consumption had not affected his behaviour.

Prosecutors said Alves and his friend had bought champagne for three young women before Alves lured one of them to a VIP area of the nightclub with a toilet which she had no knowledge of.

They argued that it was at this point he turned violent, forcing the woman to have sex despite her repeated requests to leave.

Alves had maintained she could have left “if she wanted to”. However, the court found that she did not consent.

Spanish law was changed recently to enshrine the importance of consent under the so-called “Only Yes is Yes” principle.

In a statement, the court said there was evidence other than the victim’s testimony that proved that she had been raped.

It said Alves had “abruptly grabbed the complainant” and thrown her to the ground. He had then raped her while preventing her from moving as “the complainant said no and wanted to leave”, it added.

The woman said the rape had caused her “anguish and terror”, and one of her friends who was with her on the night described how the 23-year-old had cried “uncontrollably” after leaving the bathroom.

Alves has been held in pre-trial detention since January 2023 and has changed his testimony on a number of occasions.

He first denied knowing his accuser only to claim later that he had met her in the toilet but that nothing had happened between them.

He then changed his version of events again, saying that they had had consensual sex. “We were both enjoying ourselves,” he alleged.

Alves played more than 400 times for Barcelona, winning six league titles and three Champions Leagues across two spells with the club. He was also part of Brazil’s 2022 World Cup squad.

He has won trophies playing for Sevilla, Juventus and PSG and is among Brazil’s most capped internationals, with 126 appearances.https://blejermot.com/

‘Dad, please don’t go out’: The Gazans killed as Israel freed hostages

Abed-Alrahman Al-Najjar
Image caption,Abed-Alrahman al-Najjar was killed on 12 February

By Fergal Keane

BBC News, Jerusalem

When Israeli special forces rescued two of the hostages kidnapped by Hamas, there was relief for their families and a boost for national morale. But the rescue on 12 February has left angry feelings in Gaza, where more than 70 people were reported killed on the night.

Warning: Readers may find some of the details below distressing.

Nawara al-Najjar was asleep in the tent that had been her family’s home in Rafah for the last five weeks, just a few hundred metres away from the site of the rescue raid.

Lying on the ground were Nawara, who is six months pregnant, her six children – ranging in age from 13 to four – and her husband Abed-Alrahman.

They had fled from their home in Khan Younis, about 9km (6 miles) north, following the instructions of the Israel Defense Forces who said Rafah was a safe area.


Before falling asleep, the couple discussed what to do about two of their children who had been injured. Their son had been burned by scalding food, and their daughter was recovering from facial paralysis caused by trauma in the early stages of the war.

Before they became refugees, Abed-Alrahman did whatever work he could find to support his family, often as a labourer on farms.

They were a strong couple who always tried to solve problems together.

“My husband was anxious, thinking about how he would find a way to treat them and where to take them,” Nawara says. “Our neighbours said they wanted to take my daughter to a doctor for treatment… So, we decided that he would be in charge of our son, and I would be in charge of my daughter.”

Then something unusual happened. Nawara usually slept surrounded by the children. But that night, Abed-Alrahman asked to change the arrangement. “Before he went to sleep, he asked me to come and sleep next to him. It was the first time he said, ‘Come sleep with me’.”

They fell into the exhausted sleep of refugee life. Then shortly before 02:00 (00:00 GMT), Nawara woke to the sound of shooting.

Abed-Alrahman said he would go out and see what was happening.

Nawara says: “Our oldest son was telling him, ‘Dad, please don’t go out’. [Abed-Alrahman] was trying to reassure him that nothing would happen; my son was telling him not to go out, that he would die.”

Then she felt a searing pain in her head. Shrapnel from an explosion had ripped into the tent.

Nawara started screaming. At first she could not see anything. After some minutes her vision returned in time to see Abed-Alrahman in his death throes. She remembers the “rattle” of his final breaths.

“When my children first saw him, they were screaming, ‘Oh, father, oh father, don’t leave us, don’t leave us’. I told them, ‘Stay away from your father. Just pray for him’.”

Daughter Malak, aged 13, was hit in the eye by a splinter of shrapnel. Four other children sustained minor wounds. They also endured the trauma of what they heard and saw – the explosions and their father being carried away to hospital. Later that night, in a hospital filled with other victims, it was confirmed to Nawara that Abed-Alrahman was dead.

Weeping, she asks: “What was his sin? What was his children’s sin? What’s my sin? I became a widow at 27.

Malak says she was taken to three different hospitals to try and get treatment, but she lost her eye.

“I was not treated immediately. Only after three days was my surgery performed. I was injured in the eye and I was also shot in my waist. I’m in pain, pain, pain.”

Then Malak became distraught, and cried out: “I lost my dad. Enough!”

Malak Al-Najjar
Image caption,Malak al-Najjar, aged 13, lost an eye on the same night of the Israeli military raid

According to the health ministry, run under the direction of the Hamas government in Gaza, at least 74 people were killed during the raid in the early hours of 12 February.

It is not possible to say precisely how many of the dead were civilians and how many were fighters. But witnesses and medical sources suggest a high proportion of the dead were non-combatants. The independent Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, based in Gaza, using details obtained from hospital lists, says 27 children and 22 women were among those killed.

Mohammed al-Zaarab, 45, a father-of-10 from Khan Younis, also fled to Rafah believing it would be safe. He remembers being woken in his tent by the intensity of the assault. “They were shelling with helicopters, with F-16 jets …My son was shot in his hand. Our neighbour was shot in the head.”

The following day, Mohammed’s elderly father felt unwell. He took him to the doctor, but soon after the old man died of a heart attack. “I buried him. Today is the third day in his grave. Why is this happening to us?” he asks.

The International Medical Corps – which provides emergency aid in crisis zones around the world – runs a field hospital near the scene. Dr Javed Ali, a surgeon from Pakistan, was jolted awake by the first strikes and went to shelter in a safe room in the staff quarters near the hospital.

“Aside from the air strikes, we were hearing tanks in the background, there was active exchange of fire from small firearms, as well as a helicopter gunship that was going over the hospital fighting and firing in all directions. So, it was very, very scary. We thought that this was it.”

Hearing the sound of ambulances, the medics decided to leave the safe room and help. Along with the wounded came women and children seeking shelter.

“The hospital itself is a tent structure. So there were a lot of concerns. Obviously, if there is any strike towards the hospital it will be devastating, but we had to make a decision to save as many patients as possible.”

The Al-Najjar family
Image caption,Nawara al-Najjar, sitting with some of her children, was injured by shrapnel that ripped into her tent on 12 February

Many of the dead were thought to be still lying under the rubble of destroyed houses. Another doctor – from the international agency Médecins Sans Frontières – sent a series of anguished voice messages to colleagues in London after sunrise on 12 February.

She described lying across her children’s bodies to protect them as shrapnel flew through the windows of the room where they were sheltering. The doctor has given the BBC permission to quote the messages but wants to remain anonymous.

Her account of what she found after the raid is harrowing.

“At our home when we were checking, I found pieces of human flesh. We found a whole lower limb belonging to a human that we don’t know who he is. When I saw the pieces of flesh on the floor, I cried.”

Since the beginning of the IDF incursion into Gaza, the military has accused Hamas of using the civilian population as human shields, and using medical facilities to conceal military operations and hide hostages.

The rescue of two hostages – Fernando Simon Marman, 60, and Louis Har, 70 – in Rafah this month was a rare success for the Israeli teams searching for more than 130 people, including two children, still believed to be held captive.

In a statement to the BBC about the events of 12 February, an IDF spokesman said it was “committed to mitigating civilian harm” during military operations. Military lawyers advised commanders so that strikes complied with international legal obligations.

The statement says: “This process is designed to ensure that senior commanders have all reasonably available information and professional advice that will ensure compliance with the Law of Armed Conflict, including by providing ‘Target Cards’ which facilitate an analysis that is conducted on a strike-by-strike basis, and takes into account the expected military advantage and the likely collateral civilian harm, amongst other matters.

“Even where circumstances do not allow for a targeting process involving this level of deliberate pre-planning and pre-approval, IDF regulations emphasise that commanders and soldiers must still comply with the Law of Armed Conflict.”

Photo uploaded to social media of Simon Marman and Louis Har being reunited with their families
Image caption,Israeli hostages Fernando Simon Marman and Louis Har were reunited with their families shortly after being rescued on 12 February

Human rights organisations have previously accused Israel of using disproportionate force. In a statement on 8 February – four days before the hostage raid – Human Rights Watch warned that Israel “might be carrying out unlawfully indiscriminate attacks. When it comes to the question of whether Israel is violating the law in Gaza, there is enough smoke to suspect a fire”.

In December US President Joe Biden warned Israel against “indiscriminate bombing” in Gaza.

Any legal deliberation on whether the raid constituted a disproportionate use of force, and therefore a war crime, must await an independent investigation. With no end to the war in sight, that process may take a long time.

The anonymous MSF doctor who found body parts in her home is deeply pessimistic.

“To be honest, the one who died is the one who is lucky… the one who is left has been cursed and abandoned by all people around the world. It’s not fair… I don’t know how anybody can sleep knowing that our kids are suffering for nothing. We are only civilians.”

Her message comes from inside the frightened, claustrophobic confines of Rafah, where 1.5 million people – six times its normal population – have sought shelter.

Israel is threatening an invasion of Rafah in the next few weeks, necessary, it says, to destroy Hamas. The fear for the refugees is that the horror of 12 February will soon be overtaken by new miseries, and forgotten by the international community.

“I know that this message means nothing to a lot of people,” the MSF doctor says, “and will change nothing”.https://blejermot.com/

Wagner in Africa: How the Russian mercenary group has rebranded

A private Russian security guard in the CAR - December 2020

By Joe Inwood & Jake Tacchi

BBC Newsnight & BBC Eye Investigations

Russia is offering governments in Africa a “regime survival package” in exchange for access to strategically important natural resources, a major new report has found.

Internal Russian government documents, seen by the BBC, also detail how it is working to change mining laws in West Africa, with the ambition of dislodging Western companies from an area of strategic importance.

This is part of the process of the Russian government taking over the businesses of the Wagner mercenary group, broken up after a failed coup in June 2023.

The multibillion dollar operations are now mostly being run as the Russian “Expeditionary Corps”, managed by the man accused of being behind the attempt to murder Sergei Skripal using the Novichok nerve agent on the streets of the UK – a charge Russia has denied.

“This is the Russian state coming out of the shadows in its Africa policy,” says Jack Watling, land warfare specialist at the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi) and one of the report’s authors.


Back in June 2023, Yevgeny Prigozhin was probably the most feared and famous mercenary in the world. His Wagner Group was in control of billions of dollars’ worth of companies and projects, while his fighters were central to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Then, he decided to march on Moscow, ostensibly calling for the removal of the defence minister and head of the general staff, but in reality threatening President Vladimir Putin in a way no-one had before.

Within weeks he had died in a highly suspicious plane crash, along with much of the Wagner leadership. There was widespread speculation at the time about what would happen to the Wagner Group. Now, we have the answer.

According to Dr Watling, “there was a meeting in the Kremlin fairly shortly after Prigozhin’s mutiny, in which it was decided that Wagner’s Africa operations would fall directly under the control of Russian military intelligence, the GRU”.

Control was to be handed to Gen Andrey Averyanov, head of Unit 29155, a secretive operation specialising in targeting killings and destabilising foreign governments.

But it seems Gen Averyanov’s new business was not destabilising governments, but rather securing their future, as long as they paid by signing away their mineral rights.

In early September, accompanied by deputy Defence Minister Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, Gen Averyanov began a tour of former Wagner operations in Africa.

They started in Libya, meeting warlord Gen Khalifa Haftar. Their next stop was Burkina Faso where they were greeted by 35-year-old coup leader Ibrahim Traoré.

After that, they landed in the Central African Republic, possibly the most well-established Wagner operation on the continent, before heading to Mali to meet the leaders of the junta there.

Demonstrators carry banners in Bangui, on March 22, 2023 during a march in support of Russia and China's presence in the Central African Republic.
Image caption,This banner in the Central African Republic reads: Russia is Wagner, we love Russia and we love Wagner

On a subsequent trip they also met General Salifou Modi, one of the military men who seized power in Niger last year.

Readouts of the various meetings demonstrate that the two men were reassuring Wagner’s partners on the continent that the demise of Prigozhin did not mean the end of his business deals.

Reports of the meeting with Capt Traoré of Burkina Faso confirmed cooperation would continue in “the military domain, including the training of Burkinabe officer cadets and officers at all levels, including pilots in Russia”.

In short, the death of Prigozhin did not mean the end for the junta’s relationship with Russia. In some ways, it would become deeper still.

The three West African states with close links to Wagner – Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso – have all experienced military takeovers in recent years. They have since announced their withdrawal from the regional bloc Ecowas, and the creation of their own “Alliance of Sahel States”.

Maybe the most entwined with the mercenaries was Mali, where an ongoing Islamist insurgency, combined with multiple coups, had left an essentially failed state.

Previously, security assistance had come in the form of the UN mission known as Minusma, alongside the French military’s long-running counter-insurgency operation.

But there was no particular fondness for France, the former colonial power, and so when the Wagner group offered to replace their security operations with Russian backing, the offer was accepted.

“The French were tolerated, rather than welcomed,” says Edwige Sorgho-Depagne, an analyst of African politics who works for Amber Advisers.

“The French mandate to help in the terror crisis in the Sahel was always regarded as limited in time. So, the fact that the French stayed for that long – over 10 years – without finding a way to end the crisis didn’t help”.

Flowers commemorating Yevgeny Prigozhin and Dmitry Utkin at a monument to Russian mercenaries built in 2021 in CAR
Image caption,These flowers commemorating Yevgeny Prigozhin and Dmitry Utkin were laid at a monument to Russian mercenaries in CAR

Beyond pragmatism, there was also nostalgia. “In these countries, Russia is not a new ally. Russia was there before in the 1970s and 1980s.”

“There’s this dream of getting back to a better time, which is often associated with the relationship with Russia.”

But for the military juntas running these countries, Russia’s military presence has obvious benefits.

“Initially, these juntas were transitional leaders. They were supposed to organise elections and bring about a return to democratic institutions.”

“But now Russian paramilitaries are brought in to protect the military junta, allowing them to stay as long as they want.”

The junta ordered the French forces to leave and Mali is now largely dependent on Wagner for its internal security, a change that is having an immediate impact on ordinary Malians.

“What the Russians have provided is a strike force, with helicopters with advanced capabilities and a lot of firepower,” says Dr Watling. “They are using pretty traditional Soviet anti-partisan methods. You see fighters who were executed, as well as civilians targeted for enabling or being associated with fighters.”

There have been multiple claims that Wagner forces carried out human rights abuses on the African continent, as well as in Ukraine and Syria, where Prigozhin’s organisation previously held a commanding presence.

One of the most well-documented incidents took place in the central Malian town of Moura where, according to a UN report, at least 500 people are believed to have been summarily executed by Malian troops and “armed white men”, who eyewitnesses described as speaking an “unknown language”.

While independent verification has not been possible, Human Rights Watch identified the unknown white attackers as Russian mercenaries.

Russian military specialists at the airport in the capital of Burkina Faso, Ouagadougou
Image caption,A hundred Russian military specialists arrived in Burkina Faso, along with equipment and weapons last month, with more expected soon

In exchange for considerable, if brutal, security assistance, Wagner required something in return.

Mali, like many African nations, is rich in natural resources – from timber and gold to uranium and lithium. Some are simply valuable, while others have strategic importance as well.

According to Dr Watling, Wagner was operating in a well-established tradition: “There is a standard Russian modus operandi, which is that you cover the operational costs with parallel business activity. In Africa, that is primarily through mining concessions.”

In every country in which it operates, Wagner was reported to have secured valuable natural resources using these to not only cover costs, but also extract significant revenue. Russia has extracted $2.5bn (£2bn) worth of gold from Africa in the past two years, which is likely to have helped fund its war in Ukraine, according to the Blood Gold Report.

This month, Russian fighters – formerly Wagner mercenaries – took control of Mali’s Intahaka gold mine, close to the border with Burkina Faso. The artisanal mine, the largest in northern Mali, had been disputed for many years by various armed groups active in the region.

But there is something else, with potential geopolitical significance.

“We are now observing the Russians attempting to strategically displace Western control of access to critical minerals and resources,” says Dr Watling.

In Mali, the mining code was recently re-written to give the junta greater control over natural resources. That process has already seen an Australian lithium mine suspend trading on its shares, citing uncertainty over the implementation of the code.

While lithium and gold mines are clearly important, according to Dr Watling there is possibly an even greater strategic headache around the corner: “In Niger the Russians are endeavouring to gain a similar set of concessions that would strip French access to the uranium mines in the country.”

Gold miners empty containers of earth removed from a mining shaft in Koflatie, Mali, on October 28, 2014, a mine located a few miles from the border with its southwestern neighbour Guinea.
Image caption,Many Malians earn their living by mining gold

The report details internal Russian memos focussed on trying to achieve in Niger what was done in Mali. If Russia managed to gain control of West Africa’s uranium mines, Europe could be left exposed once again to what has often been called Russian “energy blackmail”.

France is more dependent on nuclear power than any other country in the world, with 56 reactors producing almost two-thirds of the country’s energy. About a fifth of its uranium is imported from Niger. There have previously been complaints about the terms of trade, with suggestions that the former colonial power exploits nations like Niger.

“The narrative that Russia is pushing is that Western states remain fundamentally colonial in their attitude,” says Dr Watling. “It’s very ironic because the Russian approach, which is to isolate these regimes, capture their elites and to extract their natural resources, is quite colonial.”

In reality, the “Expeditionary Corps” appears more as “Wagner 2.0”, than a radical departure for Russian foreign policy. Prigozhin had built deep political, economic and military ties on the African continent – dismantling this complex web would have been difficult and ultimately counter-productive.

The “Expeditionary Corps” is operating in the same countries, with the same equipment and – it seems – with the same ultimate goal.

According to Dr Watling, the fundamental change lies in “the overtness with which Russia is pursuing its policy”. Prigozhin’s Wagner Group had always provided Russia with a level of plausible deniability in operations and influence abroad.

Following the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, many in the Western security apparatus say that Russia’s mask has slipped.

“What they are looking to do is to exacerbate our crises internationally. They are trying to start fires elsewhere, and expand those that already exist, making a less safe world,” Dr Watling.

“Ultimately, it weakens us in the global competition that we are currently facing. So the impact is not immediately felt, but over time, it is a serious threat.”https://blejermot.com/