EU observers express concerns over restrictions on media in Pakistan ahead of elections

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EU chief observer, Michael Gahler, meets Azhar Abbas, Managing Director Geo TV Network, in Karachi. (Photo courtesy: @EUEOMPak2018/Twitter)
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EU chief observer, Michael Gahler, meeting with the District Election Commissioner and his colleagues in Lahore. (Photo courtesy: @EUEOMPak2018/Twitter)
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EU chief observer, Michael Gahler, meeting PML-N Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed in Lahore as part of observation of the electoral process. (Photo courtesy: @EUEOMPak2018/Twitter)
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EU chief observer, Michael Gahler, meeting with the District Election Commissioner and his colleagues in Lahore. (Photo courtesy: @EUEOMPak2018/Twitter)
Updated 24 July 2018
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EU observers express concerns over restrictions on media in Pakistan ahead of elections

  • EUEOM has deployed 120 observers across Pakistan except Balochistan province owing to security concerns
  • EU mission will present its preliminary report based on its observations on July 27, a final report two months after end of the electoral process

ISLAMABAD: European Union Election Observation Mission (EUEOM) has expressed concerns about restrictions on media in Pakistan ahead of July 25 general elections, saying that this will undermine democracy in the country.
“We are greatly concerned about the restrictions on the media. The media have a vital role to play in an electoral process, and attempts to stifle the media undermine democracy and disadvantage the voter,” Michael Gahler, chief observer of the Mission, told Arab News in an exclusive interview on Saturday.
About recent suicide attacks and violence against candidates contesting the election, he said the violence must not and will not undermine the elections and the democratic process.
“Parties and candidates should have maximum opportunity to campaign, voters should have their voices heard, and people should be able to cast their ballot without fear or hindrance,” he added.
The EUEOM is deploying 120 observers across Pakistan on the polling day except Balochistan province owing to the security concerns. It will have a central team of 10 analysts in Islamabad, 60 long-term observers working in teams of two in districts across the country.
In its team, the mission also has seven members of the European Parliament and 41 diplomats from EU member state embassies in Pakistan.
Gahler said their mandate is to observe all aspects of the electoral process and assess the extent to which the elections comply with international and regional commitments for elections, as well as with national legislation.
However, he highlighted that in line with the EU long-term election methodology, the mission was ready to deploy from Europe in early June. “However, due to a series of bureaucratic delays, the first group of observers arrived only on June 24, and the mission’s 60 long-term observers in July,” he said.
The chief observer of the mission said the long-term observers were deployed across Pakistan just one week before polling day. “This is very unusual and never happened in previous missions to Pakistan, nor in any other country where the EU has observed (the elections),” he said.
He said the short period of time between now and election day has “implications on the EUEOM’s ability to thoroughly assess some key aspects of the electoral process, including the candidates' nomination process, campaign environment in different parts of the country, as well as work of election administration at the local level.”
Gahler said the mission observers have met a wide range of media, civil society and political parties at both national and provincial level. “Numerous interlocutors have expressed concerns about the election environment, and we will be giving our assessment on July 27,” he said.
The EU mission will present a preliminary report based on its observations on July 27, while a final report with recommendations for consideration will be published about two months after the end of the electoral process.
Gahler, however, declined to comment on the election preparations and role of the Election Commission of Pakistan in holding free and fair elections until after polling day.
“This is because the electoral process is still ongoing and we do not want to pre-judge a process that has not yet finished,” he added.
He also dispelled the impression that EU mission simply endorses the election results and avoids mentioning incidents of rigging, mismanagement and media censorship in its final report.
The EU Election Observation Missions never ratify results of the elections as they do not have the mandate to do so, he said. “It is for the authorities of Pakistan to ratify (election) results,” he said.
“Observer missions merely accompany an electoral process and make recommendations for reform of future electoral processes,” Gahler said.


No indication North Korea nuclear activities stopped: UN watchdog

Updated 21 August 2018
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No indication North Korea nuclear activities stopped: UN watchdog

  • ‘The continuation and further development of the DPRK’s nuclear program and related statements by the DPRK are a cause for grave concern’
  • The watchdog has stepped up monitoring through open source information and satellite imagery

VIENNA: The UN’s nuclear watchdog said it had not seen any indication that nuclear activities in North Korea have stopped despite its pledges to denuclearize.
“The continuation and further development of the DPRK’s nuclear program and related statements by the DPRK are a cause for grave concern,” said a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), referring to North Korea’s official name.
The report, published late Monday, by the director general of Yukiya Amano is to be submitted to an IAEA board meeting in September.
In 2009 Pyongyang expelled IAEA inspectors from its Yongbyon nuclear site and has since refused to allow IAEA inspections on its territory.
The watchdog has stepped up monitoring through open source information and satellite imagery, it said.
“As the Agency remains unable to carry out verification activities in the DPRK, its knowledge of the DPRK’s nuclear program is limited and, as further nuclear activities take place in the country, this knowledge is declining,” it said.
Between late-April and early-May, there were indications of the operation of the steam plant that serves the radiochemical laboratory at the Yongbyon site, according to the report.
However, the duration of the steam plant’s operation was not sufficient to have supported the reprocessing of a complete core from the experimental nuclear power plant reactor, it added.
North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump held a groundbreaking summit in Singapore in June.
At the meeting the pair struck a vague agreement to denuclearize the Korean peninsula, but there has been little movement since.
Before this, Kim met South Korean President Moon Jae-in in April for their first summit. They agreed to push for a declaration of an end to the Korean War this year.