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22
SEP

A ‘Me Too’ Moment for Israel’s Ultra-Orthodox Jews?

Israel’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish community is struggling to come to terms with high-profile sex abuse scandals. In the past year, two of its leading lights were accused of taking advantage of their status to sexually assault vulnerable women, men, and children. What has added to the shock is how, after one of the alleged attackers committed suicide, religious leaders in this insular, devout community defended him and even blamed his victims for causing his death by speaking out. The response sparked anger and triggered an unprecedented wave of activism to raise awareness of hidden sex abuse within the ultra-Orthodox world. Some are describing it as a “me-too” moment. The BBC’s Middle East Correspondent, Yolande Knell hears from survivors of sexual assault and the campaigners within the ultra-Orthodox community working towards lasting change.

Presenter: Yolande Knell
Producers: Gabrielle Weiniger and Phoebe Keane
Editor: Penny Murphy

Photo: A child sex abuse survivor prays at the grave of his alleged abuser.
08
SEP

The Texas Tank: A Prison Radio Station Changing Lives

The Allan B. Polunsky Unit in Livingston, Texas, used to be known as the Terror Dome for its high rates of inmate violence, murder and suicide. Polunsky houses all the men condemned to death in Texas (currently 185) and nearly 3,000 maximum security prisoners. But since the pandemic, a prison radio station almost entirely run by the men themselves has helped to create community--even for those on death row, who spend 23 hours a day locked alone in their cells.

The Tank beams all kinds of programmes across the prison complex: conversations both gruff and tender; music from R&B to metal; the soundtracks of old movies; inspirational messages from all faiths and none. The station’s steady signal has saved some men from suicide and many from loneliness; it lets family members and inmates dedicate songs to each other and make special shows for those on their way to execution. Maria Margaronis tunes in to The Tank and meets some of the men who say it's changed their lives—even when those lives have just weeks left to run.

Produced by David Goren.

Photo credit (Michael Starghill)
01
SEP

Nigeria’s oil thieves

Illegal oil is big business in the Niger Delta. Oil thieves cut the pipelines, siphoning off oil, which they refine in the bush and sell on the black market. This vast underground industry is a huge employer in the region but it’s a dangerous business. Earlier this year, over 100 people were killed in an explosion at an illegal refinery.

The local government has been cracking down on the illegal oil trade. They say the business is responsible for the worryingly high levels of pollution in the Niger Delta, where a thick black smog hangs over the city of Port Harcourt and oil runs through the waterways, destroying mangroves.

BBC West Africa correspondent Mayeni Jones meets an oil thief king pin, an exuberant local politician, taking on this illegal business and treks deep into the forests of the Niger Delta to visit an underground refinery.

Presenter: Mayeni Jones
Producer: Josephine Casserly
Editor: Penny Murphy
Production Coordinator: Gemma Ashman
25
AUG

Lacrosse: Reclaiming the Creator’s game

Why are Native Americans striving to ‘reclaim’ the game of lacrosse?

Lacrosse may have the reputation as a white elitist sport, played in private schools. In fact, it was originally a Native American game, practiced across North America before European colonisers arrived.

As white settlers pushed westwards, taking land and resources, they also took lacrosse as their own. They stopped Native Americans from playing it, alongside prohibiting other spiritual and cultural practices.

But now a Native American grassroots movement is aiming to 'reclaim' what they call "the Creator's game". In doing so they want to promote recognition for their peoples and nations.

Rhodri Davies travels to Minnesota, in the American Midwest, to talk to Native Americans about how lacrosse is integral to their identity.

Producer: John Murphy
Editor: Penny Murphy
Studio Manager: Rod Farquhar
Production Coordinators: Iona Hammond and Gemma Ashman
18
AUG

Moldova - East or West?

Sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine, the former Soviet Republic of Moldova has recently been awarded EU candidate status.

In an echo of what happened in Ukraine, Moldova lost a chunk of its eastern territory to separatists in a short war 30 years ago. The separatists were backed by elements of the Russian army. Since then Transnistria has remained a post-Soviet “frozen conflict.”

In recent months almost 500,000 Ukrainian refugees have crossed into Moldova – the highest per capita influx to a neighbouring country. Up to 90,000 have remained in Moldova, one of Europe’s poorest countries. The republic’s president has warned that President Putin has his sights set on her country. Tessa Dunlop travels to Moldova to hear what Moldovans think about the war in Ukraine and their country’s future.

Produced by John Murphy

(Image: A Russian armoured vehicle at the border crossing with the breakaway enclave of Transnistria in the village of Firladeni, Republic of Moldova. Credit: BBC/John Murphy)
11
AUG

After the ‘Narco-President’: Rebuilding Hope in Honduras

When the president stands accused of drug trafficking, what hope is there? From 2014, for eight years Juan Orlando Hernandez ruled Honduras like his personal fiefdom. A Central American strongman comparable with some of the worst from decades past, under his presidency Honduras began a rapid descent into a so-called “narco-state”. The allegations against his government soon started to mount up: human rights violations, corruption and impunity; accusations of torture and extrajudicial killings by the police and military. And at its heart, the claim by US prosecutors of a multi-million dollar drug smuggling ring, overseen from the presidential palace itself. Just weeks after he left power in January 2022, Juan Orlando Hernandez was arrested and extradited to the US to face drug trafficking charges. American prosecutors allege he used his security forces to protect some drugs shipments and eliminate competitors.

Will Grant, the BBC’s Central America Correspondent, finds out what life was like under the disgraced president and meets some people trying to instil a little hope in a nation which hasn’t had any for a long time. He meets Norma, the mother of Keyla Martinez, who was killed in a police cell. Initially, the police said she had killed herself but hospital reports later proved this wasn’t the case. Now, can Norma Martinez’s campaign for justice bring a sense of hope to those who don’t trust the authorities and have endured years of rampant corruption and police impunity?

Producer: Phoebe Keane
Fixer in Honduras: Renato Lacayo
04
AUG

Ukraine: Collaboration and Resistance

Ukrainian forces have launched a counteroffensive to retake Kherson, the largest city captured by Russia in this year's invasion. But the occupiers are redoubling their efforts to integrate the city and surrounding region into Russia - and they need the help of local collaborators. A few Ukrainians are eagerly serving the invaders. But many key workers - teachers, doctors and other state employees - are forced into a cruel choice. They must agree to work according to Russian rules, betraying their country - or else lose their jobs. Tim Whewell reports on life behind Russian lines in Kherson - and talks to some of those who've thrown in their lot with the occupiers, including the eccentric former journalist and fish inspector who's now deputy head of the region's Russian-backed administration.
28
JUL

The Return of the Tigers

Tigers are making a remarkable comeback in Nepal. The small Himalayan nation is on track to become the first country to double its wild tiger population in the last decade. A new census will be released on International Tiger Day (29th of July). The recovery is the result of tough anti-poaching measures that have involved the military and the local community. Other iconic species including rhinos and elephant populations have also increased. But this has come at a cost, there has been an increase in tiger attacks on humans. Rebecca Henschke travels to Bardia national park, to find out what’s behind the conservation success and what it means for the community living with the Tigers.

Presented by Rebecca Henschke
Produced by Kevin Kim and Rajan Parajuli, with the BBC Nepali team
Studio mix by Neil Churchill
Production coordinators Gemma Ashman and Iona Hammond
Editor Penny Murphy
19
MAY

Love-bombing Estonia’s Russian Speakers

Can music and culture help unite Estonia? Guitar riffs lilt through the air and over the narrow river that marks the border between Estonia and Russia. It’s the first time Estonia’s annual festival Tallinn Music Week has been held in Narva, bringing coach loads of musicians from 30 countries around the world to a normally sleepy city. The organiser moved the festival when the war in Ukraine broke out in order to send a message of unity and to encourage Estonians from the capital to mix with people in Narva, where 97% of Estonians have Russian as their mother tongue. Many can barely speak Estonian at all. Across Estonia, one quarter of the population are Russian speakers, prompting many to describe this as a threat. When Putin invaded Ukraine on the premise of liberating Russian speakers there, it lead to many in the press to ask ‘is Narva next?’ but a new generation of Russian speaking Estonians are increasingly frustrated by this rhetoric and say it simply isn’t true. Russian speakers are even signing up to Estonia’s volunteer defence force, ready to fight to defend Estonia should the worst happen. Their allegiance is clear. But is music and culture enough to unite Estonia’s Russian speakers?

Presenter: Lucy Ash
Producer: Phoebe Keane

Music Credits:

Artist: Trad Attack!
Track: Sõit
Writers: Jalmar Vabarna, Sandra Vabarna, Tõnu Tubli

Artist: Gameboy Tetris and Nublu
Track: Für Oksana
Writers: Pavel Botsarov, Markkus Pulk, Fabry El Androide, Ago Teppand

Artist: Pale Alison
Track: забывай
Writers: Evelina Koop, Nikolay Rudakov

Artist: Jaakko
Sound Installation: On the Border / Rajalla
12
MAY

Cambodia: Returning the Gods

While some countries fight to reclaim antiquities that were stolen centuries ago, Cambodian investigators are dealing with far more recent thefts. Many of the country’s prized treasures were taken by looters in the 1980s and 1990s and then sold on to some of the world’s most prestigious museums, including the British Museum and the Victoria & Albert museum. At the centre of many of the sales was a rogue British art dealer.

Celia Hatton joins the Cambodian investigative team and gains unprecedented access to looters who have become government witnesses. The Phnom Penh government has now launched a legal campaign in the UK to get some of its most prized statues back. For many Cambodians these are not simply blocks of stone or pieces of metal, they are living spirits and integral to the Khmer identity. The Gods, they say, are cold and lonely in foreign collections and they want to come home.

Producer: John Murphy
05
MAY

Mexico: The Yaqui Fight Back

Resistance and division among Mexico’s indigenous Yaqui people. Anabela Carlon is a legal advocate for the indigenous Yaqui of Sonora – a fierce defender of her people’s land. She is no stranger to the immense dangers that face her in northern Mexico, a region dominated by organised crime. In 2016, she and her husband were kidnapped at gunpoint by masked men. And now one of her biggest cases is representing the families of ten men from her community who disappeared last year.

In Mexico, the Yaqui of Sonora are known as, ‘the undefeated’. In spite of being hunted, enslaved and exiled, they are the only indigenous group never to have surrendered to Spanish colonial forces or the Mexican government. Somehow, eight communities survived along the River Yaqui. But there are deep divisions. Most of all, over whether a gas pipeline should be allowed on their land. Anabela Carlon is adamant it will not happen.

Presenter: Linda Pressly
Producer: Phoebe Keane
Producer in Mexico: Ulises Escamilla
28
APR

The Accordion Wars of Lesotho

A form of oral poetry accompanied on the accordion is the basis of a wildly popular form of music in Lesotho, southern Africa. But jealousy between Famo artists has triggered warfare that’s killing hundreds. Some of the genre’s best-known stars became gang bosses, and their rivalry has helped make rural, stunningly beautiful Lesotho the murder capital of Africa, with the sixth highest homicide rate in the world. Musicians, their relatives, producers and DJs have all been gunned down. Whole communities live in fear, and are now demanding action from politicians and police who are accused of protecting the Famo gangsters. Tim Whewell tells the story of a style of music that developed among Basotho migrant workers in the tough world of South African mines. He meets some of Famo's greatest artists - now disgusted by the violence - and talks to the families of victims of a cycle of revenge that the authorities appear unable to end.

Presented and produced by Tim Whewell.

80 episodes

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