Rights group demands Taliban release 2 Afghan journalists, investigate assault

Rights group demands Taliban release 2 Afghan journalists, investigate assault
Despite the Taliban announcement of a new system to protect media workers, at least 12 journalists had been arbitrarily arrested in Afghanistan in May. (AFP)
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Updated 23 June 2022

Rights group demands Taliban release 2 Afghan journalists, investigate assault

Rights group demands Taliban release 2 Afghan journalists, investigate assault

LONDON: The Committee to Protect Journalists urged the Taliban on Wednesday to immediately release two detained Afghan journalists and investigate the violent assault of another.

“The Taliban must take immediate measures to halt repeated arbitrary detentions and abuse of journalists in Afghanistan,” said Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator.

“The Taliban must immediately release journalists Abdul Hannan Mohammadi and Khan Mohammad Sial, and investigate the assault of Mohammad Ikram Esmati.”

Sial, a broadcast manager for the independent Paiwaston TV station, was detained in early May by Taliban police in Trinkot, and has since been held in the central prison of Uruzgan Province.

According to reports, Taliban members beat Sial and told him to confess that his outlet was funded by foreign entities, and was both morally and financially corrupt. Taliban members also reportedly told Sial that he would be released if he confessed.

In mid-June, Taliban intelligence agents detained Mohammadi, a reporter for Pajhwok news agency in northern Kapisa Province. Mohammadi was on his way to an assignment, but the Taliban agents relocated him to an undisclosed location.

The reason for his detention is not immediately clear.

On the same day in a separate incident, the Taliban stopped Esmati, a former journalist for the independent Kabul News TV station, and questioned him about his work.

According to Esmati, three Taliban members then bundled him in a vehicle, drove him to a remote area, and beat him with guns and fists until he was knocked unconscious.

Since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan last August, the Taliban have cracked down on media freedom in the country, prompting watchdogs to voice concerns about the safety of Afghan journalists, reporters and media workers.

According to Reporters without Borders, at least 12 journalists were arbitrarily arrested in Afghanistan in May despite the Taliban announcement of a new system to protect media workers.

In the same month, the Taliban ordered women TV presenters to cover up fully in public, including their faces, ideally with the traditional burqa.

 

 


G7: we will stand with Ukraine ‘for as long as it takes’

G7: we will stand with Ukraine ‘for as long as it takes’
Updated 6 sec ago

G7: we will stand with Ukraine ‘for as long as it takes’

G7: we will stand with Ukraine ‘for as long as it takes’
  • Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the global economic fallout such as soaring energy and food prices has dominated this year’s summit
GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany: Leaders of the Group of Seven wealthy democracies on Monday pledged to stand with Ukraine “for as long as it takes” by cranking up sanctions on Russia and backing security commitments for Kyiv in a post-war settlement.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the global economic fallout such as soaring energy and food prices has dominated this year’s summit of the leaders of Germany, the United States, France, Italy, Canada, Japan and Britain.
“We will continue to provide financial, humanitarian, military and diplomatic support and stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes,” said the statement.
The statement was issued on the second day of the summit taking place at a castle in the Bavarian Alps, shortly after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed G7 leaders on the war via video link.
In that address, which was not broadcast to the public, Zelensky asked for anti-aircraft defense systems, more sanctions on Russia and security guarantees, a European official said. He also said he wanted Russia’s war in Ukraine ended by the end of the year before the winter sets in.
The G7 leaders said they would continue to coordinate efforts to meet Ukraine’s urgent military needs and were ready to work with interested countries and institutions on sustained security commitments.
It was up to Ukraine to decide on a future peace settlement, free from external pressure or influence, they said, but they stood ready to support an international reconstruction plan, drawn up and implemented by Ukraine in coordination with partners.
This year’s G7 host, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, said last week the country needed a “Marshall Plan,” like the US program that rebuilt Europe after World War Two.
“We welcome the Presidency’s initiative to convene with Ukraine an international high-level experts conference, to make progress on a comprehensive reconstruction plan,” the statement read.
The G7 leaders were ready to grant, or had already pledged or provided up to $29.5 billion in 2022 to help Ukraine close its financing gap, the statement said. Between 2014 and 2021, the group had already provided more than $60 billion of support.
The leaders were committed to cranking up the economic pressure on Russian “President (Vladimir) Putin’s regime and its enablers in Belarus, depriving Russia of the economic means to persist in its war of aggression against Ukraine.”
They would also impose targeted sanctions on those responsible for war crimes, exercising “illegitimate authority” in Ukraine or helping Russian efforts that they said increased global food insecurity.
Russia denies committing war crimes in what it calls a special military operation, aimed at demilitarizing Ukraine and removing dangerous nationalists. Ukraine and its allies in the West say this is a baseless excuse for a war of aggression.

South African police search bar for clues after 21 teens die

South African police search bar for clues after 21 teens die
Updated 39 min 3 sec ago

South African police search bar for clues after 21 teens die

South African police search bar for clues after 21 teens die
  • The fatalities bore no visible signs of injury, sparking initial speculation among local officials and politicians
  • Many of the victims are thought to have been students celebrating the end of their high-school exams

EAST LONDON, South Africa: South African police were on Monday combing a township tavern where 21 teenagers mysteriously died as survivors described a battle to escape the jam-packed premises and one reported a suffocating smell.
Most of the victims, some as young as 13 years, were found dead inside a popular bar in the southern city of East London.
Seventeen were died inside the bar, while four died in hospital.
Thirty-one others were hospitalized with symptoms including backache, tight chests, vomiting and headache, official said.
Most were discharged on Sunday, leaving two in hospital, they said.
The fatalities bore no visible signs of injury, sparking initial speculation among local officials and politicians that this was a case of under-age drinking that went tragically wrong.
But new details emerged Monday as survivors spoke of a strong and suffocating smell in the jam-packed double-story building.
Sinovuyo Monyane, 19, who was hired by the bar to promote an alcohol brand, said she was still “confused” but felt lucky to be alive.
She said she struggled to escape through a door gridlocked with people.
“We tried moving through the crowd, shouting ‘please let us through,’ and others were shouting ‘we are dying, guys,’ and ‘we are suffocating’ and ‘there are people who can’t breathe’,” she said.
“I passed out at that moment. I was running out of breath and there was a strong smell of some type of spray on in the air. We thought it was pepper spray,” she said.
She later regained her consciousnesses after someone sprayed water on her.
“I got up and realized that there were bodies lying around. I saw people being poured water, but those people did not even move,” she said in a phone interview.
“I could have died.”
Special investigators from Pretoria have been rushed to the scene.
“The detectives will be resuming their work at the crime scene today,” regional police spokesman Thembinkosi Kinana said.
Many of the victims are thought to have been students celebrating the end of their high-school exams, officials said.
Autopsies are being conducted to see if the deaths could be linked to poisoning.
“Post-mortems (were) completed by last night and the bodies will be released to their families today,” said Yonela Dekeda, provincial spokeswoman for the health department.
Forensic analysis will be conducted this week.
“Samples were taken and were on first flight today to Cape Town, where the tests will be conducted,” said Unathi Binqose, a government official on safety.
Drinking in South Africa is permitted for over-18s.
But in township taverns which are often located cheek-by-jowl with family homes, safety regulations and drinking-age laws are not always enforced.
President Cyril Ramaphosa is among those who have voiced concern.
The teenagers reportedly “gathered at a venue which, on the face of it, should be off-limits to persons under the age of 18,” he said.
A resident DJ, who was also celebrating his birthday on the night, spoke of a rush of revellers who forced their way into an already packed venue.
“We tried to close the door but people kept pushing. The bouncers could not handle the crowd that was pushing from outside the entrance door. There were so many people,” the DJ said.
He turned off the music to try discourage revellers, but to no avail.
The crowd was just “unruly and could not be managed,” he said, adding he was “traumatized.”
In a tweet, African Union Commission chief Moussa Faki Mahamat expressed his thoughts and prayers “during this time of unspeakable grief and sorrow.”


NATO to massively increase high-readinees forces to 300,000

NATO to massively increase high-readinees forces to 300,000
NATO’s quick reaction force, the NATO response force, so far has some 40,000 troops. (AFP)
Updated 27 June 2022

NATO to massively increase high-readinees forces to 300,000

NATO to massively increase high-readinees forces to 300,000
  • NATO’s quick reaction force, the NATO response force, so far has some 40,000 troops

MADRID: NATO will increase the number of its forces at high readiness massively to over 300,000, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Monday.
“We will transform the NATO response force and increase the number of our high readiness forces to well over 300,000,” he told reporters ahead of a NATO summit in Madrid later this week in Madrid.
NATO’s quick reaction force, the NATO response force, so far has some 40,000 troops.
At the Madrid summit, NATO will also change its language on Russia that in the alliance’s last strategy from 2010 was still described as a strategic partner.
“That will not be the case in the strategic concept that we will agree in Madrid,” Stoltenberg said.
“I expect that allies will state clearly that Russia poses a direct threat to our security, to our values, to the rules-based international order.” 


Seoul urges China, Russia to prevent North Korean nuclear test

Seoul urges China, Russia to prevent North Korean nuclear test
Updated 27 June 2022

Seoul urges China, Russia to prevent North Korean nuclear test

Seoul urges China, Russia to prevent North Korean nuclear test
  • Experts say North Korea could be planning to deploy battlefield nuclear weapons along its tense border with South Korea

SEOUL: A top South Korean official said Monday that North Korea is increasingly targeting the South with its nuclear arms program, and urged China and Russia to persuade the North not to conduct a widely expected nuclear test.
Unification Minster Kwon Youngse’s comments came after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un re-emphasized his nuclear ambitions in a key military meeting last week and approved unspecified new operational duties for front-line army units.
Experts say North Korea could be planning to deploy battlefield nuclear weapons along its tense border with South Korea. During a prolonged stalemate in nuclear diplomacy, North Korea has spent much of the past three years expanding its arsenal of short-range solid-fuel missiles that are potentially capable of evading missile defenses and striking targets throughout South Korea, including US bases there.
US and South Korean officials say that North Korea has all but finished preparations for its first nuclear test since September 2017, when it claimed to have detonated a thermonuclear warhead designed for intercontinental ballistic missiles. North Korea may use its next nuclear test to claim that it has acquired the ability to build small nuclear warheads that can be placed on short-range missiles or other new weapons systems it has demonstrated in recent months, analysts say.
Kwon, who oversees South Korea’s relations with North Korea, said at a news conference that the North is exploiting a favorable environment to push ahead with weapons development and overturn the regional status quo as the US-led West remains distracted over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. He said North Korea’s nuclear ambitions pose a “very serious and fundamental threat” to South Korea and that Seoul is preparing stern countermeasures in response to a possible North Korean nuclear test. He didn’t elaborate.
“North Korea’s transition in weapons development from long-range ballistic missiles to short-range ballistic missiles, from strategic nuclear weapons to tactical nuclear weapons, is obviously targeted toward South Korea,” Kwon said.
“It seems clear that North Korea is simultaneously pursuing an ability to attack the United States and to attack South Korea,” he said.
Kwon said North Korea could go ahead with a nuclear test at “any time.”
While the US government has vowed to pursue additional sanctions against North Korea if it conducts another nuclear test, the possibility of meaningful new punitive measures remains unclear because Russia’s war in Ukraine has deepened divisions among permanent members of the UN Security Council. China and Russia have vetoed US-sponsored proposals that would have increased sanctions on North Korea over some of its recent ballistic missile tests.
Kwon, who served as South Korea’s ambassador to China from 2013 to 2015, expressed hope that Beijing and Moscow will react differently to a North Korean nuclear test since both have maintained public support for a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.
“If North Korea goes ahead with a nuclear test at a time when the global security situation is as instable as it is now, the country will face enormous criticism from international society, and the response will be more than just words,” Kwon said.
North Korea has conducted more ballistic tests in the first half of 2022 than it has in any previous entire year, firing around 30 missiles, including its first tests of ICBMs in nearly five years. Kim has punctuated the tests with repeated comments that North Korea would use nuclear weapons proactively if threatened or provoked, which experts say is an escalation in its nuclear doctrine.
The US government has reaffirmed its commitment to defending allies South Korea and Japan with its full range of military capabilities, including nuclear, but there are concerns in Seoul that North Korea’s ICBMs could make Washington hesitant in the event of another war on the Korean Peninsula.
Experts say North Korea’s unusually heavy testing activity this year underscores Kim’s intent to advance his arsenal as well as pressure the United States into accepting North Korea as a nuclear power, thereby strengthening its position in negotiating economic and security concessions.
Talks have stalled since early 2019 because of disagreements over a relaxation of crippling US-led sanctions against North Korea in exchange for North Korean disarmament steps.


ASEAN envoy appeals to Myanmar junta to spare Aun San Suu Kyi jail

ASEAN envoy appeals to Myanmar junta to spare Aun San Suu Kyi jail
Updated 27 June 2022

ASEAN envoy appeals to Myanmar junta to spare Aun San Suu Kyi jail

ASEAN envoy appeals to Myanmar junta to spare Aun San Suu Kyi jail
  • Deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been moved to a prison in the capital Naypyitaw and kept in solitary confinement

PHNOM PENH: A special Southeast Asian envoy for the crisis in Myanmar on Monday urged its military rulers not to hold deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi in prison, appealing for leniency ahead of a visit later this week.
Cambodian Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn will make his second trip to Myanmar from Wednesday, a spokesperson for his ministry said, as part of the junta’s peace commitment with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Suu Kyi, who has been on trial accused of at least 20 crimes since a coup against her elected government last year, has been moved to a prison in the capital Naypyitaw and kept in solitary confinement. She denies all charges.
The 77-year-old had until last week been spared jail and was held in an undisclosed location, despite having several convictions for relatively minor offenses.
Prak Sokhonn in a letter to the junta urged compassion.
“Aung San Suu Kyi is regarded internationally and by many in Myanmar as having a critical role in your country’s return to normalcy and national reconciliation through a peaceful political solution,” he wrote, according to a statement.
Activists denounced Prak Sokhonn’s last visit in March as a failure that favored the junta and overlooked its opponents, criticism that he said he understood.
In his letter, he said a successful peace process was impossible with one side excluded.
“A peaceful political resolution to a conflict, no matter how complex it is, must involve the sharing of political space by all involved,” he added.