Polish minister must tone down criticism of migration film, court says

Polish minister must tone down criticism of migration film, court says
Poland’s justice minister must not compare film director Agnieszka Holland or her work to authoritarian regimes, a Warsaw court said on Tuesday. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 26 September 2023
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Polish minister must tone down criticism of migration film, court says

Polish minister must tone down criticism of migration film, court says
  • The black-and-white film shows a family from Syria and a woman from Afghanistan thrown backwards and forward across the border by brutal guards indifferent to their suffering
  • The movie drew a furious response from conservatives in Poland even before its release in Polish cinemas on Friday

WARSAW: Poland’s justice minister must not compare film director Agnieszka Holland or her work to authoritarian regimes, a Warsaw court said on Tuesday, after the minister likened Holland’s film depicting the Belarus border migrant crisis to Nazi propaganda.
With migration a key issue ahead of Oct. 15 elections, the ruling nationalists Law and Justice (PiS) have pushed Holland’s award-winning film ‘Green Border’ to center stage in the campaign, condemning its portrayal of the treatment of migrants at the border and accusing Holland of insulting people who were protecting their country.
Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro compared the film to Nazi German propaganda, spurring Holland to demand an apology and threatening court action in the absence of one.
In his post on social media network X, Ziobro said: “In the Third Reich, the Germans produced propaganda films showing Poles as bandits and murderers. Today they have Agnieszka Holland for that.”
The black-and-white film shows a family from Syria and a woman from Afghanistan thrown backwards and forward across the border by brutal guards indifferent to their suffering, as activists struggled to try to bring them to safety.
After the court’s ruling on Tuesday, Holland’s lawyers Sylwia Gregorczyk-Abram and Michal Wawrykiewicz wrote on X: “As Agnieszka Holland’s representatives, we would like to inform you that the District Court in Warsaw has issued an order prohibiting Zbigniew Ziobro from speaking about Ms. Holland and her works, comparing them to criminal authoritarian regimes.”
The movie drew a furious response from conservatives in Poland even before its release in Polish cinemas on Friday.
Holland hit back at the criticism in an interview with private broadcaster TVN24 on Monday, labelling the government “a disgrace to Poland” and their actions against her work “unprecedented.”
Deputy Justice Minister Sebastian Kaleta said Holland and her legal team were in effect blocking Ziobro’s right to free speech.
“Minister Ziobro and every citizen has a right to present their views and opinions,” he told Reuters. “Ms Holland wants to refuse him this right.”
Migrants, largely from North African and the Middle East, started flocking to the border in 2021 after Belarus, a Russian ally, opened travel agencies in the Middle East offering an unofficial route into Europe, a move Brussels said was designed to create a crisis. Poland has refused to let them cross.


Germany bans Muslim association for pursuing radical Islamism

Germany bans Muslim association for pursuing radical Islamism
Updated 5 sec ago
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Germany bans Muslim association for pursuing radical Islamism

Germany bans Muslim association for pursuing radical Islamism
  • Extensive evidence from an earlier search of 55 properties conducted in November provided the basis for Wednesday’s ban of the IZH
FRANKFURT: Germany’s interior ministry said on Wednesday it has banned the association Islamic Center Hamburg (IZH) and its subsidiary organizations, saying it pursues radical Islamist goals.
The ministry said in a statement that 53 of the organization’s premises had been searched by authorities in eight German states early on Wednesday, acting on a court order.
Extensive evidence from an earlier search of 55 properties conducted in November provided the basis for Wednesday’s ban of the IZH, known in German as Islamisches Zentrum Hamburg, said the ministry.
“Today, we banned the Islamisches Zentrum Hamburg, which promotes an Islamist-extremist, totalitarian ideology in Germany,” said Interior Minister Nancy Faeser.
She said she wanted to make clear that “this ban absolutely does not apply to the peaceful practice of the Shiite religion.”
The IZH was not available for comment by phone on Wednesday morning, and its website was not accessible to the public.

Philippines orders foreign workers in offshore gaming hubs to leave in 2 months

Philippines orders foreign workers in offshore gaming hubs to leave in 2 months
Updated 8 min 4 sec ago
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Philippines orders foreign workers in offshore gaming hubs to leave in 2 months

Philippines orders foreign workers in offshore gaming hubs to leave in 2 months
  • Marcos has banned Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) for their alleged links to crimes, human trafficking and financial scam

MANILA: The Philippines has ordered foreigners working in offshore gambling firms to leave the country in two months’ time, its immigration bureau said on Wednesday, following President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s decision to stamp out the operators.
Marcos has banned Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) for their alleged links to crimes, human trafficking and financial scams, and gave the gaming regulator until the end of the year to shut down these businesses.
Philippine immigration chief Norman Tansingco said in a statement foreign workers had 59 days to leave the country. Around 20,000 people are expected to be affected by the order, most of them Chinese citizens.
Workers who stay in the country beyond the two-month period will be deported, he added.
The Chinese embassy in Manila did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
POGOs emerged in 2016 and boomed in just a few years as companies capitalized on liberal laws to target customers in China, where gambling is banned.
At their peak, some 300 POGOs operated in the Philippines, but the coronavirus pandemic and tighter tax rules forced many to relocate or go underground. Only 42 mostly Chinese firms have kept their licenses, directly and indirectly employing around 63,000 Filipino and foreign workers.


Thai court to rule next month on case seeking PM’s dismissal

Thai court to rule next month on case seeking PM’s dismissal
Updated 55 min 18 sec ago
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Thai court to rule next month on case seeking PM’s dismissal

Thai court to rule next month on case seeking PM’s dismissal
  • In May, the court accepted a petition submitted by 40 former senators to remove Srettha Thavisin from office under ethics rules

BANGKOK: Thailand’s top court will rule next month on a case seeking to oust Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin over his appointment of a cabinet minister with a criminal conviction.

In May the court accepted a petition submitted by 40 former senators, to remove Srettha Thavisin from office under ethics rules.

The case centers on Pichit Chuenban, appointed minister in a recent reshuffle, who served six months in jail for contempt of court in 2008.

Pichit, a former lawyer with close links to billionaire ex-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, later resigned from the cabinet in a bid to protect Srettha.

The constitutional court will give a verdict on Srettha’s case on August 14, it said in a statement.

Srettha, who has denied any wrongdoing, is also from Shinawatra’s Pheu Thai party, and became PM after forming a coalition with army-linked parties following elections in 2023.


India’s strategic railway bridge to entrench New Delhi’s control of disputed Kashmir

India’s strategic railway bridge to entrench New Delhi’s control of disputed Kashmir
Updated 24 July 2024
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India’s strategic railway bridge to entrench New Delhi’s control of disputed Kashmir

India’s strategic railway bridge to entrench New Delhi’s control of disputed Kashmir
  • Military experts say the bridge will ‘revolutionize’ logistics in Ladakh, the icy region bordering China
  • Residents of the region say easier access will bring outsiders to buy land and settle in Kashmir

REASI: Soaring high across a gorge in the rugged Himalayas, a newly finished bridge will soon help India entrench control of disputed Kashmir and meet a rising strategic threat from China.
The Chenab Rail Bridge, the highest of its kind in the world, has been hailed as a feat of engineering linking the restive Kashmir valley to the vast Indian plains by train for the first time.
But its completion has sparked concern among some in a territory with a long history of opposing Indian rule, already home to a permanent garrison of more than 500,000 soldiers.
India’s military brass say the strategic benefits of the bridge to New Delhi cannot be understated.
“The train to Kashmir will be pivotal in peace and in wartime,” General Deependra Singh Hooda, a retired former chief of India’s northern military command, told AFP.
Muslim-majority Kashmir is at the center of a bitter rivalry between India and Pakistan, divided between them since independence from British rule in 1947, and the nuclear-armed neighbors have fought wars over it.
Rebel groups have also waged a 35-year-long insurgency demanding independence for the territory or its merger with Pakistan.
The new bridge “will facilitate the movement of army personnel coming and going in larger numbers than was previously possible,” said Noor Ahmad Baba, a politics professor at the Central University of Kashmir.
But, as well as soldiers, the bridge will “facilitate movement” of ordinary people and goods, he told AFP.
That has prompted unease among some in Kashmir who believe easier access will bring a surge of outsiders coming to buy land and settle.
Previously tight rules on land ownership were lifted after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu-nationalist government canceled Kashmir’s partial autonomy in 2019.
“If the intent is to browbeat the Kashmiri consciousness of its linguistic, cultural and intellectual identity, or to put muscular nationalism on display, the impact will be negative,” historian Sidiq Wahid told AFP.
India Railways calls the $24 million bridge “arguably the biggest civil engineering challenge faced by any railway project in India in recent history.”
It is hoped to boost economic development and trade, cutting the cost of moving goods.
But Hooda, the retired general, said the bridge’s most important consequence would be revolutionizing logistics in Ladakh, the icy region bordering China.
India and China, the world’s two most populous nations, are intense rivals competing for strategic influence across South Asia, and their 3,500-kilometer (2,200-mile) shared frontier has been a perennial source of tension.
Their troops clashed in 2020, killing at least 20 Indian and four Chinese soldiers, and forces from both sides today face off across contested high-altitude borderlands.
“Everything from a needle to the biggest military equipment... has to be sent by road and stocked up in Ladakh for six months every year before the roads close for winter,” Hooda told AFP.
Now all that can be transported by train, easing what Indian military experts call the “world’s biggest military logistics exercise” – supplying Ladakh through snowbound passes.
The project will buttress several other road tunnel projects under way that will connect Kashmir and Ladakh, not far from India’s frontiers with China and Pakistan.
The 1,315-meter-long steel and concrete bridge connects two mountains with an arch 359 meters above the cool waters of the Chenab River.
Trains are ready to run and only await an expected ribbon cutting from Modi.
The 272-kilometer railway begins in the garrison city of Udhampur, headquarters of the army’s northern command, and runs through the region’s capital Srinagar.
It terminates a kilometer higher in altitude in Baramulla, a gateway trade town near the Line of Control with Pakistan.
When the road is open, it is twice the distance and takes a day of driving.
The railway cost an estimated $3.9 billion and has been an immense undertaking, with construction beginning nearly three decades ago.
While several road and pipeline bridges are higher, Guinness World Records confirmed that Chenab trumps the previous highest railway bridge, the Najiehe bridge in China.
Describing India’s new bridge as a “marvel,” its deputy chief designer R.R. Mallick, said the experience of designing and building it “has become a holy book for our engineers.”


Bangladesh partially restores telecommunication services as protests taper off

Bangladesh partially restores telecommunication services as protests taper off
Updated 24 July 2024
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Bangladesh partially restores telecommunication services as protests taper off

Bangladesh partially restores telecommunication services as protests taper off
  • Supreme Court scales down reservations for various categories to 7 percent, overruling a high court verdict reinstating a 56 percent quota in government jobs
  • Protesting students have given the government a fresh 48-hour ultimatum to fulfill four other conditions of an eight-point list of demands

DHAKA: Bangladesh partially restored telecommunication services on Wednesday although Internet connection was slow and social media remained suspended, days after deadly protests against reservations for government jobs killed almost 150 people.
The country has mostly been calm since Sunday when the Supreme Court scaled down reservations for various categories to 7 percent, overruling a high court verdict reinstating a 56 percent quota in government jobs that had been scrapped in 2018.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government said on Tuesday that it would heed the Supreme Court ruling.
As demonstrations against the quotas — which included a 30 percent reservation for family members of freedom fighters from the 1971 war of independence from Pakistan — tapered off, the government started easing the curfew imposed last week.
Restrictions will be relaxed for seven hours on Wednesday and offices will also be open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., officials said.
Residents of the capital Dhaka could be seen out on the streets on Wednesday morning as they made their way to their offices, with public buses also plying in some places — in sharp contrast to the violent clashes in the city last week.
Protesting students have given the government a fresh 48-hour ultimatum to fulfill four other conditions of an eight-point list of demands, and said they will announce next steps once that ends on Thursday.
“We want the government to meet our four-point demand, including restoration of Internet, withdrawal of police from campuses, and opening universities (which have been closed for a week),” protest coordinator Nahid Islam said.
The South Asian nation of 170 million was rocked by protests since the high court verdict last month, which left less than half of state jobs open on merit in a country where about 32 million young people are out of work or education.
Demonstrations intensified after Hasina refused to meet the protesters’ demands and instead labelled them “razakar” — a term used for those who collaborated with the Pakistani army during the war.
Hasina this week blamed her political opponents for the violence and said the curfew would be lifted “whenever the situation gets better.”
The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party has denied any role in the violence.
Several countries in the region have evacuated citizens from the violence-hit nation over the last few days, including India and Malaysia.