Turkey: Concerns for freedom of expression deepen after referendum

On 16 April 2017, President Erdogan declared victory in a constitutional referendum, granting him significantly increased presidential powers and enabling the Turkish authorities to further dismantle the current system of democratic checks and balances. The referendum took place under a state of emergency, and was marred by widespread violations of the right to freedom of expression and other human rights. The outcome of the referendum is likely to jeopardise guarantees for human rights in Turkey, already under sustained attack.

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 “The ‘Yes’ result enables the incorporation into law of many of the temporary emergency powers that Erdogan invoked in the wake of the failed coup attempt in July 2016, which have been systematically used to stifle dissent over the past months,” said Katie Morris, Head of the Europe and Central Asia Programme at ARTICLE 19.

By removing guarantees of political and judicial oversight over the executive, the constitutional amendments mean there will be little to stop President Erdogan from completely immobilising remaining independent media and political opposition”, she added.

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ARTICLE 19 calls on the government of Turkey to ensure the full protection of the right to freedom of expression and other human rights following the referendum outcome. Other States, including through European and International intergovernmental bodies, must redouble their efforts to ensure the Turkish government upholds human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

An assault on constitutional guarantees of democracy and protections for human rights

According to the State-run Andalou news agency the Turkish population voted 51.18 percent to 48.82 percent in favour of 18 proposed amendments to the Turkish Constitution. The opposition is calling for an annulment of the results, alleging multiple violations of electoral law. After the referendum results were declared, President Erdogan again raised the prospect of re-introducing the death penalty, which could result in Turkey leaving the Council of Europe and could potentially be applied to those facing serious criminal charges on the basis of their expression. Following the referendum, the state of emergency was also immediately renewed by the cabinet for a further three months allowing the continuation of extraordinary measures which have weakened the rule of law in Turkey and enabled an unprecedented crackdown on the media. The constitutional amendments fundamentally alter Turkey’s democratic path and will grant the president powers to rule by decree – ensuring that a power he has enjoyed under the state of emergency becomes a permanent state of affairs.

The constitutional amendments threaten guarantees for democracy and further endanger human rights protections in Turkey. Prior to the referendum, the Venice Commission, an independent commission of legal experts affiliated with the Council of Europe, warned that the constitutional changes would “lead to an excessive concentration of executive power in the hands of the president and the weakening of parliamentary control of that power”, creating a system which “lacks the necessary checks and balances required to safeguard against becoming an authoritarian [regime].”

The Venice Commission also raised concerns that the amendments allow the President to control judicial appointments, severely jeopardising the independence of the judiciary. Judicial independence had already been seriously undermined through legal changes in 2014 allowing the Justice Minister more control over the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors. While most of the constitutional amendments brought about through this referendum will come into effect in 2019, the changes will immediately give President Erdogan increased authority over the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors, further cementing the domination of the executive over the judiciary. Since the coup attempt in July 2016 and the declaration of the state of emergency, judges have been subject to criminal prosecutions, and have been removed from their positions without ensuring due protections for the independence of the judiciary. ARTICLE 19 has also observed trials of journalists, which were visibly politically motivated.

Restrictions on freedom of expression during campaigning period

The referendum took place in an environment that was far from free and fair, with people denied access to adequate and equitable information on campaigns. There were very limited opportunities for opposition and independent media to argue in favour of a ‘no’ vote to the proposed amendments, against a backdrop of a severe crackdown on freedom of expression.

Preliminary conclusions  issued by OSCE-ODIHR and Council of Europe election observers have criticised the referendum, arguing that it was ‘contested on an unlevel playing field, and the two sides in the campaign did not have equal opportunities’, to make their case to the voters. They also raised concerns that ‘under the state of emergency… fundamental freedoms essential to a genuinely democratic process were curtailed.’

Since the failed coup attempt and in the run-up to the referendum, several members of opposition political parties have been arrested on terrorism-related charges, thousands of public employees, including academics and opponents to the constitutional reforms, were dismissed in February, and some of the most outspoken “No” campaigners were arrested. In an interim monitoring report, OSCE election observers noted that the ‘No’ campaigners had been subject to bans, police interventions, and violent scuffles at their events, while the ‘Yes’ campaign had dominated television coverage of the referendum.

Moreover, election monitors reported that the ongoing restrictions on freedom of expression, including the closure of media outlets and arrests of journalists, further undermined the referendum.

Recommendations

Turkey is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and of the European Convention of Human Rights, and is therefore obliged to protect human rights, including the rights freedom of expression and the right to a fair trial.

Electoral violations during the referendum campaign, and the proposed amendments clearly contravene OSCE commitments, Council of Europe standards and other international obligations regarding freedom and equality in the campaign. Turkey’s international partners and the guardians of these bodies must respond strongly to the constitutional amendments, making clear that Turkey must guarantee the independence of the judiciary. They must use all their leverage to work with Turkey to promote observance of its international commitments.

ARTICLE 19 calls on Turkey to:

  • End the state of emergency and reinstate rights and freedoms curtailed by the emergency decrees;
  • Immediately and unconditionally release all writers, journalists and media workers detained for exercising their right to freedom of expression;
  • Guarantee the independence of the judiciary;
  • Ensure forthcoming OSCE-ODIHR recommendations are fully implemented, in particular those related to freedom of expression and freedom of the media;
  • Ensure that the death penalty is not reintroduced.

ARTICLE 19 recommends to the international community:

  • For Member States of the UN Human Rights Council to raise the deteriorating situation for freedom of expression in Turkey during its 35th Session in June 2017.
  • Make clear that any attempt to reinstate the death penalty is unacceptable.
  • Specifically, the Monitoring Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe should reinstate full monitoring of Turkey.
  • Source : Article 19

Rather Than Commit Suicide, Nigerians Should Revolt Against Those Causing Economic Hardships-Union Leader

Nigerians have been called upon to shun the temptation to commit suicide  in the face of Economic challenges confronting them.

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This  call was made on Tuesday by the immediate past Chairman of the Trade Union Congress(TUC)Oyo state council, who is also the incumbent Chairman Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria(ASCSN)Oyo state chapter, Comrade  Andrew Emelieze,in a chat with Federationews2day,in Ibadan,Nigeria.

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”For Nigerian,I beckon on them,I beckon on my brothers and sisters to stop taking their lives,rather, they should start pulling their energies together, so that we can use it for a popular revolution,against those causing us stress and crisis in this country.  I plead with you all,I call on you all, my brothers and sisters, stop taking your lives. Stop committing suicide. Direct your energies to Aso Rock, direct your energies to state Houses of Government in Nigeria”.

”Direct your energies to the National Assembly,  direct your energies to the different state  Houses of Assembly in protest, stop committing suicide. I call upon you, to stop thinking about  suicide. Suicide. Suicide is not the way out. Suicide can never  be the way out,we should come together to fight our common enemy. And who are the common enemy ? The ruling class.Brothers and sisters stop taking your lives. There is judgement,there is punishment for suicide. I f you kill yourself,the problem will still be there”, Comrade Emelieze declared.

He lamented that corruption had impacted negatively on the lives of workers in the country, saying”what about corruption of the Government against the people ?  Take for instance,those who are paid N18,000 minimum wage,in the face of a dwindling economy, is that not corruption of the Government against the workers ? The workers who are earning N18,000 minimum wages, they cannot go home with N18,000 minimum wages. It is also corruption. Until we change the system, that is when we can be free from all these  corruption”.

”The economy we are practicing now, is pirated.  It is an economy that is putting wealth in the hands of a few,while the majority of the people are going through hell. What President Muhammdu Buhari is doing now, is a distraction, he is diverting  the attention of the Nigerian people,from the incompetence of the ruling class in Nigeria, from the  failure of his government. So that people will think that he is working and our attention will be diverted towards fighting corruption, meanwhile the economy is going down the drain by the day.And who are those  enjoying it ? It is still the same ruling class,who are enjoying”,he concluded.

Aba Goes Agog As Pro Biafra Leader Is Granted Bail By Nigerian Court.

Several residents of  Aba city on Tuesday took to the streets, to celebrate  the bail granted the leader of the Indigeneous People of Biafra(IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu by a Federal High Court  sitting in Abuja.

The scene at major streets and markets  in the city was that of a jubilant crowd,celebrating the bail granted Kanu by the court.

A sizable number converged on beer joints and make shift drinking pubs to discuss the development.


The Trial Judge, Justice Binta Nyako had granted Kanu bail on health grounds with the following conditions,  three sureties in the sum N100 million each ,one of which must be a highly placed personality of Igbo extraction,such as a Senator .

The other conditions include :

* The second surety must be a highly respected Jewish leader since Mr. Kanu said his religion is Judaism

*The third surety must be a highly respected person who owns landed property and is resident in Abuja

*The IPOB leader must deposit his Nigerian passport

*He must also deposit his British passport with the court

*He must provide the court with reports on the progress of his health and treatment on a monthly basis.

* The order for him to deposit his Nigerian and British passports also means he cannot travel out of the country.

Justice Nyako however turned down the bail application of the three other defendants standing trial with Kanu, among whom are  Chidiebere Onwudiwe, Benjamin Madubugwu and David Nwawuisi.

She said although the charge of terrorism had been struck out against the defendants, the charge of treasonable felony hanging over them was a very serious offense.

She also turned down a second application by the three defendants seeking a review of her earlier ruling that witnesses who were security personnel should be protected.

She  maintained that  although the defendants had made the application for variation of the ruling based on the grounds that the charge of terrorism had been dropped, the charge of treasonable felony was equally a grave one.

Based on this, she said she would stick to her earlier ruling that as long as the witnesses were security personnel, they would testify behind a curtain or wear a mask.

Uganda: As Museveni Critic Remains in Jail, Govt On the Spot Over Rights

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As the magistrate court at Buganda Road resumes hearing of cases against Stella Nyanzi on Monday April 25, focus is likely to extend to the declining state of fundamental rights in Uganda and that of the Constitutional Court.

Its wheels have yet to move on a petition filed nearly 15 months ago challenging sections of the Computer Misuse Act (CMA) against which she is being charged for harassing and offending President Yoweri Museveni.

Dr Nyanzi, a social researcher at Makerere University was kidnapped by unknown people on the night of Friday, April 7, around the headquarters of the Internal Security Organisation.

She was addressing a Rotary fellowship at a nearby hotel.

A day later Police acknowledged it was holding her.

When she appeared in court on Monday April 10, Dr Nyanzi’s charge sheet indicated two counts of cyber harassment and offensive communication contrary to Sections 24 (1 and 2a) and 25 of the CMA enacted in 2011, that had been drawn two weeks earlier on March 23 and sanctioned by the Director of Public Prosecutions on March 27, weeks before her arrest.

The court remanded her to Luzira Maximum Security Prison for 14 days.

Section 25 in particular, which is about offensive communication, is a subject of a constitutional petition filed on February 3, 2016 by Andrew Karamagi and Robert Shaka.

The charges against Dr Nyanzi were first drawn on March 23, 2017 and sanctioned four days later. They followed hours-long interrogation on March 7, 2016.

Dr Nyanzi, who uses expletives, allegedly insulted Museveni on her Facebook page by calling him “a pair of buttocks” on January 28.

But a review of her timeline shows she posted nothing at all on that said day.

Besides being the butt of all jokes, the charges have continued to draw widespread condemnation across the country and beyond its borders.

Most recently on Wednesday, April 19, Amnesty International demanded her immediate release, saying she was a “prisoner of conscience, held solely for exercising her right to freedom of expression.”

“Her continued detention and prosecution violate Uganda’s obligations under the country’s constitution and international human rights law regarding the rights to liberty and freedom of expression,” read its call to action; a mechanism through which it mobilises global attention.

That Dr Nyanzi and her lawyers were surprised with a government application to subject her to a sanity test after her first appearance in court is only helping attract more scrutiny and interest on the trial and its associated human rights issues.

Source : The East African

Security Tops L/G Chairman’s Priority

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As security challenges continue to envelope most communities in Nigeria,  political appointees at all level of governance in the country have started embarking on ways to check the unbecoming situation.

When the crime rate of a community is on the increase, security experts insist that the leaders  of the community  are to blame.

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Indeed, in several communities in Nigeria, owners of houses are  to blame for accommodating questionable  characters, who later turn out to be criminals.

In his views, the newly appointed  Chairman of Ibadan South West Local Government, Ibadan, Nigeria, Hon. Gbenga Opaleye, security of lives and property would be his focus.

”First and foremost, I have already started with security. In my Local Government, we are encountering a lot of security challenges, the area boys, the people from Born Photo, Foko and some other places. Last week, I went round to  speak with some of them”.

”I advised  them that if they are  ready  to remain in my Local Government, they should comply with the  rules and regulation of the Local Government, if they want jobs, we will find  a way of creating jobs for them. But if they  are not ready to  comply, we will send them to where they belong  to. So if there is security of lives and property, that means the environment is enabled.  And if you look  at it very well, Oyo state  is the most peaceful state in the world, not even in the country, courtesy of my Governor, His Excellency, Abiola Ajimobi”, Hon. Opaleye disclosed.

Organization Remolds Nigerian Youths With Cricket

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A private organization in Nigeria has  organized a cricket competition for teenagers in the South west Geo-political zone of the country as a step  towards re-moulding them.

The competition, for under 19 males, involved teams from Lagos, Ogun, Oyo and Osun states.

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For a long time,Parents and Guardians have been contending with the unbecoming behavior of the children and wards, with most of them expressing frustrations, over how to handle the situation.

In his views, the Head of the Technical team of the competition, Endurance Ofem, says that cricket is a character builder.

”The game is a character moulder and that is what we stand for. Once a child has education and sports, then violence is out of place.

That is why we are coming down to this level to inculcate good culture in them, so that they can represent  us well, when they eventually represent Nigeria”, Ofem stated.

The finals of the maiden edition of the competition, The Jide Bademosi cup, comes up by 9.00am on Sunday, 23 April, 2017 at the Obafemi Awolowo stadium, Ibadan, Nigeria.

How African governments use advertising as a weapon against media freedom

National governments remain the single largest source of revenue for news organizations in Africa.  In Rwanda, for example, a  staggering 85-90% of advertising revenue comes from the public sector.

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In Kenya, it’s estimated that 30% of newspaper revenue comes from government  advertising.  In 2013, the government spent Ksh40 million in two weeks just to publish congratulatory messages for the new President Uhuru Kenyatta.

But with a general election coming up this year in August, the Kenyan government has decided to stop advertising  in local commercial media.

In a memo, reportedly sent to all government accounting officers, the directive was given that state departments and agencies would only advertise in My.Gov –  a government newspaper and online portal.

Electronic advertising would only be aired on the state broadcaster – the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation.

It’s difficult not to characterize the withdrawal of state advertising from commercial media as punitive. Without this revenue stream newspapers are likely to fold.

Worse still, efforts to withdraw government advertising from commercial media can be interpreted as a worrying way to undermine the freedom of expression.

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Starving news media of revenue is a means of indirect state control. This has been the case in countries such as Serbia, Hungary, Namibia, Lesotho and Swaziland.

But to fully understand the link between government spend on advertising and media freedom it’s important to take a historical perspective.

How did we get here?

The 1990s saw the adoption of multi-party politics in many African countries. This led to relatively liberal constitutions  in South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana among others.

Since then, most African governments have grown anxious about their inability to control the local news agenda, much less articulate government policy.

For governments in countries such as  Ethiopai, Uganda,Zimbabwe and more recently Tanzania, controlling the news agenda is seen as a means to stay in power. Views that compete with the state position are often cast as legitimizing the  opposition agenda.

This is part of a much broader strategy for political control which Africanist historians and political scientists have called the ”ideology of order”.  This is based on the premise that dissent is a threat to nation building and must therefore be diminished.

The narrative was popularized by most post-independence African governments and emphasized through incessant calls for what they liked to call “unity”.

In Kenya, former president Daniel Moi even coined his own political philosophy of ”peace, love and unity”. Citizens were expected to accept this narrative unequivocally. Dissenting views were undermined through state-controlled media such as Kenya Broadcasting Corporation and newspapers such as the Kenya Times.

From the 1960s – 1980s, African governments conveniently used the nation-building argument to suppress legitimate dissent. Opposition was punished by imprisonment, forced exile and even death. This was common practice in Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, and in West Africa more generally.

The current political climate on the continent is premised on constitutional safeguards including the protection of free speech which make these kinds of punishments unlikely in the present day.

Many countries now have institutional safeguards  including fairly robust judicial systems capable of withstanding the tyranny of naked state repression.

As a result, the media is controlled in subtler ways and its violence is softer. It’s against this background that I interpret the withdrawal of government adverts from the commercial media in Kenya.

Controlling media budgets

In Kenya, the decision followed a special cabinet meeting which agreed that a new newspaper would be launched to articulate the government agenda more accurately.

The government also argued that the move was part of an initiative  to curb runaway spending by lowering advert spend in Kenya’s mainstream media and directing all the money to the new title.

A similar move was made in South Africa last year when the government’s communications arm announced that it would  scale down government advertising in local commercial media.

Instead, advertisements would be carried in the government newspaper Vuk’uzenzele. The decision withdrew an estimated $30 million from the country’s commercial newspaper industry.

The South African government also claimed that the move was made to reduce government spending. But  critics have argued that the decision was made to punish a media outlet that’s been particularly critical of President Jacob Zuma’s presidency.

In both countries the decisions have hit at a particularly hard time for the media industry, providing governments with the perfect tool with which to control the press.

Will a free press survive

Commercial news media is going through a period of unprecedented crisis. The old business models are unable to sustain media operations as audiences adopt new ways of consuming news.

More than that, mass audiences are growing ever smaller. Newspapers particularly haven’t been able to adapt to the changing profile of the old versus the new newspaper reader.

The effect has been that newspapers are no longer as attractive to advertisers. As such, they have to rely a lot more on state money and patronage for survival.

To sidestep state control commercial media in Africa must rethink their business models and diversify their revenue streams.

It won’t be an easy road but non-state media must also work hard to disrupt this re-emerging narrative of “order”. Nation states cannot revert to the dark days when government policy was singular and alternative viewpoints were silenced or delegitimised.

Source : The Conversation

Abia Govt. Embarks On House To House Refuse Evacuation

Tha Abia state Government has commenced a house to house  refuse evacuation to ensure  that the state is free of filth and environment  friendly.

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According to a statement by the state Government , the exercise will focus on Azikiwe road in Umuahia and  Ogbor hils and environment in Aba.

The statement disclosed that the exercise does not attract any fees, while calling on residents  to provide the waste collectors with necessary  information to make the exercise a success.

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Indeed, most state Governments in Nigeria are having difficulties in tackling environmental challenges brought about by  poor waste collection and disposal..

Quacks Defy Govt. in Nigeria

Despite the efforts of the Federal Government to curb the activities of quacks in the country, they have continued with their stock -in-trade with impunity.

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Indeed, professional bodies consciously or unconsciously support the activities of quacks, who have infiltrated all professions.

In the bore hole industry, quacks have continued to fleece unsuspecting Nigerians of their money by providing sub-standard bore-holes, with the active connivance of some unscrupulous law enforcement agents.

Adeyinka Ajayi is the National Public Relations Officer of the Association of Water Well Drillers, Rig Owners and Practitioners(AWDROP). Ajayi laments  that despite the huge amounts of money spent by Government in the water sector, the sector is yet to produce positive results.

”If you go around, there are a lot of moribund bore holes.  And if you look at it, on a yearly basis, let us look at how much Government is pumping into the drilling of new bore holes. What is the result ? Is there any achievement ? Is there sustainability ? There is none”, he declared

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Ajayi  commended  Government for taking  steps towards  regulating activities of those in the water sector, saying ”it is a welcome idea, but there should be enforcement, because I realize  that in Nigeria, we only make laws, thereafter there is no enforcement. This policy will help a lot, in the area of indiscriminate bore hole drilling, it has to be a thing of the past”.

”And I what I will advise, as regards the obtaining of the license, there must be stringent conditions, just as it happens in Ghana, Ethiopia and Kenya. You can’t  just go there and start drilling. We, who are Nigerians were in Ghana sometimes ago, we were driven out through legislation. Foreigners cannot just come and be tapping our resources. Not that we will just make a law, we just dump it somewhere, no enforcement. There must be enforcement by Government”, he concluded.

Cleveland Facebook Killer Steve Stephens Tortured Pets as a Teen, Neighbor Says

The self-described ‘monster’ was ‘not normal’ even as a child, according to someone who grew up around him. Across town, a family heard the shot that rang across social media.

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CLEVELAND—Soon after he shot 74-year-old Robert Godwin—who was walking down the street and picking up cans after eating Easter Sunday dinner with his family— Steve Stepehens posted video to facebook of the murder that he just committed.

Then he kept posting his personal reasoning for his deranged behavior, explanations showed that there was a deep anger within this man that suddenly snapped.

“I fucked up,” he said, with little emotion on his face. “I’m at the point where I snapped… I got a lot of built up anger and frustration.”

“All my life,” Stephens continued, “I’ve been a monster.”

That line by the man now known as the “Facebook Killer” was shocking to many who heard him say it on social media, but not so much so for Tony Henderson. He lived across the street from Stephens for decades—that line that this man was a “monster” didn’t seem that crazy. The kid always seemed somewhat “out there,” Henderson said.

“I never quite understood that kid through his entire life, because on some days he would talk to you, and then on others he would be mean and staring at you and very quiet,” Henderson said. “It’s not like he was running around the street scaring old people when he was a teenager, but what he did on Easter Sunday doesn’t surprise me.”

On the Monday after the shooting that was getting worldwide attention, Henderson was cleaning up the vacant property next to his house, which is directly across the street from Stephens’s mother’s home. Police in two cars were staked out on the street to keep media and angry residents from causing trouble for the killer’s family. But for Henderson, 55, what he saw on television shows and online media reporting over the past day made more sense to him than most anyone.

“How can I put this?” he said, as he paused. “That kid was not normal as we as normal people know it from the beginning. He was in his early teens when the family moved in there, and I was in my late twenties, but I could see something wasn’t right. He was smart, but some days he seemed OK with talking to people on the street, but on other days he was staring off into space with a blank face. He was very up and down.”

Then Henderson told a somewhat disturbing story.

“He asked me to come in and see his pet bird, so I went in their house. He had a parakeet and he had that bird crawl from the cage and on to his finger. Then he slapped the bird as hard as he could with his other hand, and the bird was lying on the floor. The bird looked dead to me. I looked at him and he was smiling and laughing as he looked at me and that bird.”

“Hey, animals don’t make you weird like that,” Henderson said. “He was that way before he got that bird. Heard he used to torture other pets he had. He was like that from the time I first met him.”

An aggravated murder warrant has been issued, and police said early Monday that Stephens may have fled Ohio. Police warned residents of Pennsylvania, New York, Indiana, and Michigan to be on the lookout. The FBI is providing assistance to the Cleveland police and taking over the national manhunt. A $50,000 reward has been offered for information leading to his whereabouts.

Stephens has a valid concealed-carry gun permit, Cleveland police said at a news conference Monday morning. Police Chief Calvin Williams said guns were seized from a home in the city of Twinsburg, a suburb of Cleveland, that is listed in court records as the home occupied by Stephens and his girlfriend at the time, Joy Lane. Williams said he was unsure how many guns were seized and whether they were registered to Stephens.

Though Stephens also said on Facebook postings that his need to kill people came because of a breakup with Lane (who treats youths with various mental disorders for a company different from the one Stephens works for), it appears he might have been having more problems with his fiancée. The Cleveland Plain-Dealer  reported  that Stephens had been evicted from his suburban apartment this past January for failure to pay rent. Five months before that, he had been evicted from another suburban apartment complex, and the property-management company successfully sued him and began garnishing wages from his paycheck.

Stephens had also declared personal bankruptcy in January 2015, according to the report, and at that time, Stephens said he had worked for Beech Brook, a suburban-based social-services agency for six years. He declared his annual salary to be about $28,800, but his wages were also facing garnishment then as well, for unpaid credit-card debt that he had been sued over in court for.

In another Sunday Facebook posting, Stephens talked of his financial issues, blaming some of it on Cleveland’s Jack Casino, Ohio’s first casino, which opened in 2012.

“The past year’s been really [expletive] up for me,” Stephens said. “You know, being with [his ex-girlfriend] drove me crazy, started making me gamble. I lost everything. I lost everything I have. I don’t have shit. I’m out of options.”

Besides the craziness of this murder—an employed man shooting an elderly man randomly and then posting it for all to see on social media—is how this murder does not fit in with all the other murders in Cleveland in recent years. There were 136 murders in the Cleveland in 2016, the highest number in 10 years. This high number of murders, despite the fact that Cleveland lost about 10 percent of its population (about 43,000) during those 10 years, has been linked to the city’s high poverty rate. Based upon 2016 figures, Cleveland’s poverty rate of 34.7 percent is the 11th highest in the country among cities of at least 65,000 people.

Many of the murders in Cleveland are driven by gangs, which themselves are partly blamed on high inner-city unemployment. One of the most violent and powerful gangs has the ironic name “Heartless Felons.” In some of these killings, children lost their lives because they were playing in a park or on a front lawn when the killers drove by.

The street on which Godwin was killed ends at Interstate 90 about five miles east of downtown. It is an odd place to do a killing, given it’s off-the-beaten path and abutting a crowded highway. “I don’t think there is any rhyme or reason for this happening,” Cleveland’s police chief said at the press conference Monday.

For those living on that street, the killing was not only horrific to see, but so bizarre that many are still shaking their heads. Thea, a 25-year-old who lives directly across the street from where Godwin died, said her family had about 20 people coming over for East Sunday dinner. The killing, which happened at about 2 p.m. Sunday, occurred about a half hour before people started to arrive.

“This is a quiet street,” said Thea, who didn’t want her last name used. “It ends at the freeway. So no one usually drives their cars down here because it is hard to turn around and get out.”

“But it was so weird,” she continued. “My mom was outside talking to our neighbor, and they were just doing what moms do, talking about the recipes they had cooked, and then both went back in their houses. About one minute after she came in, we heard a gun pop and went outside and saw that old man lying dead on the sidewalk right across the street from our house.”

“What would have happened if they were out there one minute later?” Thea asked. “He might have just shot that man and my mom and the neighbor, too. That’s all I’ve been thinking about. How my mom might have been killed, too.”