03 Sep

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

English Online International Newspapers

Nearly all of these are English-edition daily newspapers. These sites have interesting editorials and essays, and many have links to other good news sources. We try to limit this list to those sites which are regularly updated, reliable, with a high percentage of “up” time.


Irish Examiner>>

France 24>>


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SUZANNE HARRINGTON: Our attitude to Saudi sticks in the throat

According to the Irish Embassy in Riyadh, “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a welcoming and hospitable country with many unique traditions.”

Like public beheading. How uniquely medieval.

Because what Saudi Arabia emphatically does not welcome is women protesting about human rights — they’re still coming to terms with women behind steering wheels.

Israa al-Ghomgham, aged 29, has been in jail since 2015 without trial or access to a lawyer.

She had the neck (unfortunately metaphor, given the Saudi predilection for hacking through them) to protest peacefully about the unequal treatment of Shias, the minority religion within the theocracy — al-Ghomgham is herself Shia.

And now, according to Human Rights Watch, she’s up for trial in front of the country’s terrorism court, which reports directly to the king.

The verdict is likely to be Off With Her Head, making al-Ghomgham the first Saudi woman to be executed for peaceful protest, activities which Human Rights Watch says “do not resemble recognisable crimes”.

The organisation calls this possible outcome “monstrous”.

I’ve been thinking about Israa a lot.

I don’t know why — she’s hardly unique in her monstrous situation, given how women globally continue to bear the brunt of second-class citizenship, with the possible exceptions of Scandinavia or Iceland or New Zealand. (We in Ireland may have the legislation, but culturally are still playing catch-up).


But there’s just something so horrorshow, so gulag, so Kafka, about being locked up for peacefully registering your dissent; I think of all the peaceful demonstrations I have attended over the years.


How many heads I would have lost. Chop chop.

We don’t even know what Israa al-Ghomgham looks like — the photo circulating online is not her, but another peaceful activist, Samar Badawi.

Does Israa realise that people are talking about her, that we know her name, that we are worried about her? Unlikely.

So what can we do?

The Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister has stuck her neck out — I really need to find another metaphor — in defence of the peaceful activism of Saudi protestors, including al-Ghomgham and Badawi.

This has resulted in Saudi governmental hissy fit, with ambassadors expelled, trading ceased, and 16,000 Saudi medical students ordered to return home.

Canada has been left scratching its head and muttering WTF, as the rest of the world carries on as normal, the UK continuing its sales of weapons to the Saudi government to use in the bombing of schools and hospitals in Yemen.

Business as usual.

Ireland, being small, has enormous freedom.

We will not cause the end of the world by expressing our displeasure at injustice — the Irish ban on goods from the Occupied Territories is a small but potent symbol.

Yet we exported US$795 million worth of Irish goodies to Saudi last year.

Dare we draw Saudi wrath by commenting on the utter repugnance of slaughtering their citizens in public squares (or anywhere, frankly)?

Or do we zip it, other than to gush about their “unique traditions” on our embassy website?

Kind of sticks in the throat, no?

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested in December after reporting on a massacre of Rohingya Muslims

‘I have no fear’: Reuters reporter defiant after Myanmar sentencing – video

Two Reuters journalists arrested in Myanmar while investigating a massacre of Rohingya Muslims have been found guilty of breaching the country’s Official Secrets Act and sentenced to seven years in prison.

Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, are being held in prison in Yangon after being arrested in December, in a landmark case that has prompted international outrage and been seen as a test of progress towards democracy in the south-east Asian country.

In his ruling, judge Ye Lwin said the men “tried many times to get their hands on secret documents and pass them to others. They did not behave like normal journalists.”

As he was led to a police van in handcuffs, Wa Lone said: “I have no fear. I have not done anything wrong … I believe in justice, democracy and freedom.” Kyaw Soe Oo hugged his wife while she was sobbing and held her until police took him away.

Reuters condemned the verdict as “a major step backwards” for Myanmar.

“Today is a sad day for Myanmar, Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, and the press everywhere,” the Reuters’ editor-in-chief, Stephen J Adler, said in a statement. Adler called for Myanmar to review the decision urgently.

The defence lawyer Khin Maung Zaw said the verdict was “bad for our country” and that he would “take any option to get their immediate release”.

Press freedom advocates, the United Nations, the European Union and countries including the US, Canada and Australia had called for the men to be acquitted.

The journalists were looking into the deaths of 10 Rohingyaat the hands of soldiers and Buddhist villagers in Inn Din, a village in the north of Rakhine state. After being invited to a dinner by officers, they were detained.

Prosecutors accused the men of obtaining secret state documents, in breach of the Official Secrets Act. The journalists said they were framed by police who gave them the documents during the dinner, and that they were targeted for their reporting. Kyaw Soe Oo said that while being investigated he was deprived of sleep, forced to kneel for hours and had a black hood placed over his head.

One prosecution witness said under cross-examination that he had written the location of the arrest on his hand so he would not forget it while he was testifying. Another admitted that he burned his notes of the arrest.

Concerned by what was widely seen as a draconian attack by Myanmar authorities on the free press, dozens of journalists and activists marched in Yangon on Sunday in support of the men.

The verdict was condemned by human rights activists, the UN, the US and Britain.

Knut Ostby, the UN resident and humanitarian coordinator in Myanmar, said he was disappointed by the court’s decision. “Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo should be allowed to return to their families and continue their work as journalists,” he said.

The US ambassador to Myanmar, Scot Marciel, said the decision was “deeply troubling”. Dan Chugg, Britain’s ambassador to Myanmar, said he was extremely disappointed by the verdict.

Brad Adams, the Asia director for Human Rights Watch, described the convictions as outrageous, adding: “These sentences mark a new low for press freedom and further backsliding on rights under Aung San Suu Kyi’s government.”

The verdict comes during a time of intense international scrutiny on Myanmar authorities following a damning UN report about the military’s treatment of the Rohingya, which it said amounted to ethnic cleansing. More than 700,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar to bordering Bangladesh over the past year after a campaign of violence by the military.

Last week, the UN said Myanmar army generals should be investigated and prosecuted for “gross human rights violations and serious violations of international humanitarian law”. In the report, which was rejected by the Myanmar government, de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi was criticised for failing to support the Rohingya.

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World Politics

United States

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Invaders continue to seize land within the Chaparrí ecological reserve, one of Peru’s most biodiverse forests

Land invaders turned their attention to Chaparrí six years ago when plans to build a reservoir raised the possibility of agricultural expansion in the protected area.

Land invaders turned their attention to Chaparrí six years ago when plans to build a reservoir raised the possibility of agricultural expansion in the protected area. Photograph: Dante Piaggio D/El Comercio/Newscom/Alamy

Shortly after sunset, along an isolated stretch of highway leading out of a dusty hamlet in northern Peru, a band of five weary farmers clad in reflective neon vests and armed with traditional whips made of bull penises set out on a solemn march.

The Ronderos – self-governing peasant patrols – are resuming their nightly rounds five months after the brutal killing of their lieutenant governor, Napoléon Tarrillo Astonitas.

“During all the years I’ve lived here, the situation has never been this threatening. The murder of the lieutenant governor in this hamlet made us organise in order to protect ourselves,” says Humberto Gonzales Núñez, head of Rondas Campesinas of El Mirador.

El Mirador and the surrounding hamlets remain deeply shaken by the murder last December, living in terror as invaders continue to seize their land within the Chaparrí ecological reserve, one of Peru’s most biodiverse forests.

Defender José Napoleón Tarrillo Astonitas from Peru (from his Facebook page).

Defender José Napoleón Tarrillo Astonitas (from his Facebook page). Photograph: Handout

“This hurts so much –my husband was my only family,” Flor Vallejos, Tarrillo’s widow, says. “He was a lovely person. He liked to defend our environment, our lands, and our dry forest. The animals, he loved them.’’

Land invaders turned their attention to Chaparrí six years ago when plans to build La Montería reservoir dangled the promise of water resources in a desert-like environment – raising the possibility of agricultural expansion in the protected area.

To date, 28 individuals opposing the plans have been threatened, and last year 10 cases of suspicious forest fires were reported in Chaparrí. According to the head of Peru’s supreme court, Duberlí Rodríguez, more than 1,000 hectares of the area have been affected by land grabbers – deforested, burned and illegally cultivated.

The location of La Montería reservoir has been a controversial matter, since it is within the borders of the protected area, going against a resolution made by the environment ministry in 2011.

The head of Peru’s congressional environmental commission, María Elena Foronda, says the reservoir project has not been approved by the authorities governing protected areas, forests and wildlife, nor the environment ministry. “There have simply been acts of corruption,” she adds.

An organised criminal network has its hold on the area, says Mar Pérez Aguilera, coordinator for the activist group National Coordinator for Human Rights, which is currently helping to keep Vallejos in hiding. She recounts four cases of murder tied to land grabbing in the area so far: that of Tarrillo, and those of three police officers in Salas two years ago.

But the crimes are rarely prosecuted, and the perpetrators seldom face legal consequences. “Impunity is a message of support,” says Pérez. “We know that very powerful people are involved in this case, and that is making everything more difficult.”

The case of Chaparrí is legally complex. According to Rodríguez, invaders have also infiltrated the community’s group of legal representatives known as the Administrative Directive, enabling an influx of nearly 500 new members during the past six years. Many of them do not meet the normal criteria to join the group, he says.

“It is the Administrative Directive itself that is promoting the disappearance of Chaparrí; they are enemies of the reserve,’’ Rodríguez says.

A spectacled bear climbing in tree on a typical misty morning in the dry forest.

A spectacled bear climbing in tree on a typical misty morning in the dry forest. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Etlevina López Vásquez has been a community member for the majority of her life, and was also one of the founders of Chaparrí, but says she has found herself a target under the new authorities. She says she has been insulted, that her animals have been killed, and that the new members have tried to expel her from the community.

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