Press Freedom Slipping Fast Across Asia
(LinkAsia: February 1, 2013)
Thuy Vu:
A survey on press freedom shows Asia is slipping. In fact, no Asian country made the top 25 in guaranteeing journalists' freedom. Here's Japan's public broadcaster, NHK with a report.


Airdate: January 30, 2012

Reporters Without Borders released its annual survey assessing the commitment by governments to protect freedom of the press. Japan plunged 31 spots to 53rd place out 179 countries and territories. The non-profit group says the Japanese government lacked transparency and failed to give the media sufficient access to information following the 2011 nuclear accident in Fukushima. Reporters Without Borders spokespersons say Japan's fall from its normally high ranking should serve as a warning.

The survey says media in Finland enjoy the most freedom followed by other European nations such as the Netherlands and Norway. Myanmar rose 18 places to 151st. It abolished official censorship in 2012. China ranked 173rd, almost unchanged from 2011. And North Korea remained second to last at 178. Eritrea remains last on the World Press Freedom Index.

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Syrian Opposition Unites, Rohingya Groups Speak Out, and More Top News This Week

REUTERS/Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham/Handout

US-approved Syrian opposition group forms governing body

After US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for a "more trustworthy" Syrian opposition last week, New TV reported that a leader in the Free Syrian Army announced that the Free Army is reorganizing its ranks to gain the trust of the international community, adding that his leadership has started to settle inside Syria. The Syrian opposition also announced during its ongoing meetings in Doha that it accepted a proposal to establish a transitional government headed by opposition member Riyad Saif. The initiative, headed by Saif, stipulates creating a unified leadership dubbed the Syrian National Initiative, from which a government in exile will be formed.

World groups organize global day of action in support of Myanmar's Rohingyas; Suu Kyi under fire for ignoring violence

Myanmar's Rohingyas are fleeing Rakhine State after a new wave of attacks from the Buddhist majority. Press TV reported that Rohingya groups around the world held a global day of action for the Rohingyas on November 8. International rights groups, such as Human Rights Watch, have also criticized Burmese activist Aung San Suu Kyi for her silence on the issue. The president of Arakan Rohingya National Organization, Noor al-Islam, added in an interview during a rally in London that if the persecuted had been Rakhine's Buddhists, Suu Kyi would have spoken out. Additionally, the aid group Doctors Without Borders says its workers have been threatened and stopped from reaching violence-hit areas in Myanmar. The group says thousands are left without medical care in the western Rakhine State as a result, adding that many of the victims are extremely vulnerable.

Tens of Thousands Demand Nobel Peace Prize for Malala Yousafzai


BBC Arabic reported that over 60 thousand people signed a petition calling for Pakistani rights activist Malala Yousafzai to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The 15-year-old girl is recovering in The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, Britain, after suffering an armed attack by the Taliban movement in Pakistan. Malala and her campaign for education gained notoriety around the world after she wrote her memoirs in the Urdu section of the BBC about life under the teachings of the extremist Taliban movement that rejects girls' right to an education.

Oil Giant Shell Undercuts Iran Sanctions with $1.4B Grain Barter


Dubai TV reported that the Royal Dutch Shell Company aims to circumvent international sanctions imposed on Iran by concluding a swap through which it would pay its USD 1.4 billion debt to the Iranian national oil company with a grain barter deal through the American agribusiness Cargill. Through the deal, Shell would deliver grain to Iran worth USD 1.4 billion, or what amounts to nearly 80 percent of Iran's yearly grain imports. Sources also revealed that the Royal Dutch Shell company, Tehran's second largest customer, imports 100,000 barrels of Iranian oil per day, and continued to purchase oil until the sanctions went into effect on July 1st.


Image: Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousufzai talks to her father, Ziauddin Yousufzai, as she recuperates at the The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, in this undated handout photograph released to Reuters on November 8, 2012. REUTERS/Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham/Handout


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An 'Uneasy Calm' in Rakhine State: LinkAsia Follows Burmese Ethnic Violence


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Tonight on Mosaic: Bahrain accused of systematic torture inside hospitals

Bahrain: Doctors Without Borders released a report today alleging that Bahraini government forces have tortured injured demonstrators in hospitals around the country. The report focused on Manama’s Sulaimaniya hospital, where Doctors Without Borders volunteers documented several methods of torture used against patients. The head of the organization’s mission in Bahrain, Jonathan Whittall, said that all patients suspected of participating in peaceful protests were taken to the hospital's sixth floor, where they were severely beaten on a daily basis. Twenty Bahraini doctors are being prosecuted for “disrupting public order” for treating injured demonstrators.


Libya: The humanitarian situation in Libya is deteriorating as clashes continue between the revolutionaries and Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's loyalists. Thousands of people have been killed or injured, and hundreds of thousands have been displaced, since fighting began five months ago. Sources say fierce battles against Gaddafi’s forces continue, especially in western Libya, as the revolutionaries make their way to Gaddafi-controlled Tripoli. The International Committee of the Red Cross expects 850,000 people to be affected by the war by the end of the year. 


Syria: In his third speech since unrest broke out three months ago, President Bashar al-Assad said his country is the victim of a conspiracy and that anti-regime protestors are working for a foreign agenda. He added that the people’s demands for reform are legitimate but that they must be differentiated from the demands of the “vandals.” Assad called for a comprehensive national dialogue to end the current crisis. Protestors and activists were quick to reject the president’s statements and immediately took to the streets vowing that the revolution would continue. 



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Bahraini Security Forces Target Medics

(Al Jazeera English: 0408 PT, May 12, 2011) Al Jazeera's exclusive report on Bahrain looks at the abuse of medical workers as part of the government's crackdown on dissent.



'Bahrain Has Placed Healthcare at the Center of a System of Oppression'

(Al Jazeera English: 0408 PT, May 12, 2011) AJE interviews Christopher Stokes of Doctors Without Borders on the subject of the abuse of medical workers as part of the government's crackdown on dissent.




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A Mortal Threat? Where History Fails Us in Pakistan

How should we view the recent resurgence of Taliban activity in Pakistan?

Be afraid, very afraid.

That’s a common message voiced by media and political observers in recent weeks. Pakistan’s government could go the way of the Shah of Iran in 1979, writes the Wall Street Journal editorial page. Taliban threats to Pakistan’s leadership represent the worst global crisis since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, a RAND Corporation official tells the Financial Times.


And it’s hard not to be moved by the devastation occurring in Pakistani regions like the Swat Valley. Doctors Without Borders announced today that it was halting medical services to refugees in Swat due to escalating warfare.


But could all this fear of a Taliban takeover in Pakistan be blinding the U.S. to local realities? An Economist report notes that for all the Taliban’s repellent acts in Swat, the Pakistani military has engendered deep local hostility by its brutal strikes on civilian targets. Rather than pushing for further billions of dollars in military aid for Pakistan to stave off an unlikely Taliban takeover, U.S. leaders would do well to pay more attention to the shaping of local hearts and minds. Central Asia Institute, the education non-profit co-founded by Three Cups of Tea author Greg Mortenson, is one example of a worthy U.S. effort to build rather than break human capital in Pakistan.


Watch the Global Pulse episode on Pakistan here.


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Winning Work in Hard Times

This week, Global Pulse goes beyond today's front-page news of exec bonus furor and reports on human-scale examples of the economic crisis. From struggling carpet weavers in India to sober singles in Moscow and jobless college graduates in South Korea, we examine how gainful work is won in a new era of contraction.


In the U.S., the U.K., and South Korea, public service is billed as the next great wave of labor opportunity. The News Hour at PBS reports that more and more young Americans are turning to government and non-profit programs like the Peace Corps and Teach for America. Likewise, the Independent chronicles a generation of young Britons eager to jump from the boardroom to the classroom as grade school teachers. And from Seoul today comes word that the South Korean government will create up to 550,000 temporary jobs in coming months, many of them for young graduates to work in fields like education.


But a less rosy portrait of labor emerges from the European Union and Malaysia, where migrant workers have experienced devastating recent changes in status. Der Spiegel interviews Mongolians in Prague, Poles in England, and Ecuadorians in Madrid who explain that jobs are newly few and far between. Across the globe, Al Jazeera English speaks to Bangladeshis locked out of Malaysia, their visas unexpectedly revoked.  


Will these labor changes prove fundamental and long-term? Or will we soon see a return to boom-era ways of expansion, open borders, and private enterprise?


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Will international law save or scuttle the peace in Sudan?

This week, Global Pulse is covering the controversy surrounding last week's International Criminal Court decision to issue an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. Human rights activists hope the court's action, the first against a sitting head of state, will end the bloodshed that has flared in Darfur since 2003. But many Sudan watchers worry that the warrant could set off further tensions, including a resurgence of a decades-long, north-south civil war.


The Christian Science Monitor examines how Sudan's move this week to expel 13 international aid groups cuts Darfur's humanitarian effort in half, placing over 1 million people at risk for starvation. Likewise, BBC News predicts that rising desperation in Darfur could trigger renewed conflict in south Sudan, where rebel groups have long sought political recognition from the Sudanese government.


Meanwhile, guest columnists at the Huffington Post and the Washington Post call on the Obama administration to use the ICC warrant as justification for a stepped-up military campaign in Sudan. Today's kidnapping of 3 Doctors Without Borders workers in Darfur may further stoke the fire of the military interventionists.


Should the international community enforce ICC wishes and arrest Bashir, even if by military means? Or will enforcement of the court's wishes only lead to further humanitarian catastrophe?


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