Trump Slaps Down Journalist For ‘Stupid’ Question

US President Donald Trump (R) gets into a heated exchange with CNN chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta (C) as NBC correspondent Peter Alexander (L) looks on during a post-election press conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC on November 7, 2018.

 

President Donald Trump instructed journalists Friday to show more respect in the “sacred” White House and moments later angrily refused to answer a reporter’s question because it was “stupid.”

The latest clash between the president and the press corps assigned to cover him followed a meltdown on Wednesday when Trump lashed out at a star CNN reporter as a “terrible person” and had him barred from the White House.

In Friday’s incident, Abby Phillip, also from CNN, asked Trump whether he wanted his new attorney general to hold back an explosive probe into allegations that the president’s 2016 election campaign colluded with Russian agents.

The topic has been one of the main headlines in Washington since Wednesday when Trump abruptly fired Jeff Sessions as attorney general and named Matthew Whitaker, who has strongly criticized the Russia probe, to replace him. Critics have accused Trump of placing an ally who will try to muzzle special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Trump, speaking just before leaving for an international gathering in Paris to commemorate World War I, refused to answer Phillip.

“What a stupid question that is, what a stupid question. But I watch you a lot. You ask a lot of stupid questions,” he said, shaking a finger at the journalist, then walking away.

Moments earlier he’d defended his decision to bar CNN reporter Jim Acosta following their exchange at Wednesday’s press conference, saying that Acosta “is a very unprofessional guy.”

Asked how long Acosta will be denied the credential allowing him to work inside the White House, Trump said he hadn’t decided and seemed to indicate that the extremely unusual sanction could be applied to more journalists.

“It could be others also,” he said.

Trump went on to refer to another reporter, April Ryan, who works for American Urban Radio Networks and CNN, as “a loser” and “very nasty.”

The president said that the bad blood between him and the media was the fault of journalists showing insufficient deference.

“When you’re in the White House, this is a very sacred place to me. It’s a very special place. You have to treat the White House with respect. You have to treat the presidency with respect,” he said.

AFP

‘It Was Hell’, Freed Japanese Journalist Narrates Syria Kidnap Ordeal

Japanese journalist Jumpei Yasuda, who had been kidnapped in Syria, is pictured after his release in Hatay October 24, 2018. Photo: Huseyin BOZOK / DHA / AFP

A Japanese journalist who was held in Syria for more than three years before being freed this week has described his lengthy captivity as “hell.”

Jumpei Yasuda was freed earlier this week and taken to Turkey, where Japanese government officials confirmed his identity before announcing Wednesday that he was free.

He boarded a plane bound for Tokyo on Thursday, speaking briefly to journalists in an interview broadcast by Japanese media.

“It was hell,” he said, sporting a long beard peppered with grey hair.

“Not only physically, but mentally as well. The thought each day that ‘I’m not being released today either’ left me losing control over myself bit by bit.”

Yasuda, who is expected to arrive in Tokyo on Thursday evening, spoke calmly but appeared slightly overwhelmed and tired, if otherwise healthy.

“For about 40 months, I have not spoken a word of Japanese. Words don’t come to my mind easily,” he said.

“I am happy that I am returning to Japan. At the same time, I have no idea what will happen now and how I should conduct myself. I am at loss and don’t know what to think.”

Yasuda was kidnapped in Syria in June 2015 and was reportedly initially a hostage of the group previously known as the Al-Nusra Front, a former Al-Qaeda affiliate.

But the group’s current iteration, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, denied any involvement in his kidnapping in a statement earlier this week.

There was only sporadic news of Yasuda throughout his captivity, including a bizarre video that emerged in August showing him and a man identified as an Italian called Alessandro Sandrini.

Both men appealed for their release, dressed in orange jumpsuits, as masked, armed men stood behind them.

Yasuda gave his name as Omar and described himself as South Korean, but his wife Myu confirmed that it was her husband in the video.

The video did not identify who was holding the men or what their demands were. There has been no word on the fate of Sandrini since.

Yasuda told journalists he believed he was held for all of his captivity in Idlib, a province in northwestern Syria that is one of the last parts of the country still held in part by rebels and jihadists.

The details of how Yasuda was freed have remained murky, with the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, saying a ransom was paid.

But Japan’s government has denied that.

In 2015, militants from the Islamic State group beheaded Japanese war correspondent Kenji Goto and his friend Haruna Yukawa in Syria.

The Japanese government was criticized for what detractors saw as its flat-footed response to the crisis at the time, including apparently missed opportunities to free both men.

But other Japanese hostages who have been freed and made it home safely have also faced heavy public criticism for what some have deemed reckless behavior.

AFP

UN, Britain Demand Punishment Of Those Behind Khashoggi’s Death

Turkey Widens Khashoggi Search, Quizzes Consulate Staff
In this file photo taken on December 15, 2014, general manager of Alarab TV, Jamal Khashoggi, looks on during a press conference in the Bahraini capital Manama. Jamal Khashoggi, a veteran Saudi journalist who has been critical towards the Saudi government has gone missing after visiting the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, the Washington Post reported.
MOHAMMED AL-SHAIKH / AFP

 

The UN chief, Britain’s foreign ministry and media groups on Saturday called for the punishment of those who ordered and carried out Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s killing in Istanbul.

Here are a few reactions:

UN

“The Secretary-General stresses the need for a prompt, thorough and transparent investigation into the circumstances of Mr Khashoggi’s death and full accountability for those responsible,” Antonio Guterres’s office said in a statement.

Britain

“We send our condolences to Jamal Khashoggi’s family after this confirmation of his death. We are considering the Saudi report and our next steps. As the Foreign Secretary has said, this was a terrible act and those responsible must be held to account,” the foreign ministry said.

Reporters Without Borders

“Any attempt to get rid of the pressure on Saudi Arabia and to accept a compromise policy would result in giving a ‘license to kill’ to a Kingdom that puts in jail, lashes, kidnaps and even kills journalists who dare to investigate and launch debates,” Christophe Deloire, Secretary General of the Paris-based media rights watchdog tweeted.

Turk-Arab Media Association

The Istanbul-based body, of which Khashoggi was a member, said it wanted all those involved in the plot — right up to the highest rung — to be punished.

“We demand that not only the 18 men but those who commanded (the killing) are punished,” said Turan Kislakci, the head of the association, speaking outside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

UNESCO

“The killing of Jamal Khashoggi reminds us of the need to fight for press freedom, which is essential to democracy. Accountability for these crimes is non-negotiable. I urge the relevant authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into this crime and bring its perpetrators to justice,” UNESCO chief Audrey Azoulay said.

AFP

Trump Sends U.S. Diplomat To Saudi Arabia Over Missing Journalist

 

US President Donald Trump said on Monday he is sending his top diplomat to Saudi Arabia after Saudi King Salman told him in a phone call that he has no idea what happened to missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

“Just spoke to the King of Saudi Arabia who denies any knowledge of whatever may have happened ‘to our Saudi Arabian citizen,'” Trump said in a tweet, adding he was “immediately sending” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to meet with the king.

Trump has taken a cautious position since the disappearance of Khashoggi — a Washington Post contributor and critic of powerful Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Trump has threatened “severe punishment” should proof emerge to back claims that Saudi agents killed Khashoggi and disposed of his body.

However, the US president has repeatedly made clear that he will not risk billions of dollars in deals to sell weapons to the kingdom, which is a strategic ally in the tinderbox Middle East.

Following days of mounting tensions, Saudi officials were allowing Turkish investigators to enter the consulate on Monday.

A Turkish diplomatic source said it was expected that the search, to be conducted jointly with Saudi authorities, would “take place towards the evening.”

Lurid claims have appeared in Turkish media, including that Khashoggi was tortured and dismembered. However, the Turkish leadership has so far refrained from pointing the finger directly at Riyadh in public comments.

The controversy has troubled Saudi Arabia’s traditional Western allies — many of the arms suppliers to the kingdom — and also undermined efforts by the prince, Mohammed, to present himself as the modernizing future of the kingdom.

An investment conference is seen as a platform for the crown prince, due to take place next week in Riyadh and dubbed “Davos in the Desert,” has been hit by a string of prominent cancellations.

Business barons including British billionaire Richard Branson and Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, as well as media powerhouses like Bloomberg and CNN, have pulled out of the Future Investment Initiative (FII).

In major new twin blows to the credibility of the event, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon and Ford chairman Bill Ford also canceled plans to attend, CNBC reported.

In Washington, Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor, Jared Kushner, is coming under pressure after having spearheaded the administration’s strategy to forge close ties with Mohammed.

But US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Saturday that he still plans to attend the Saudi conference.

“If more information comes out over the next week, I will obviously take that into account,” he said.

AFP

Saudi Prince Criticised Over Disappearance Of Journalist Khashoggi

A woman holds a portrait of missing journalist and Riyadh critic Jamal Khashoggi reading “Jamal Khashoggi is missing since October 2” during a demonstration in front of the Saudi Arabian consulate on October 9, 2018, in Istanbul. 
OZAN KOSE / AFP

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is facing a backlash over the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi from business and media previously supportive of his reform drive, with partnerships at risk and big names boycotting a major conference this month.

The crown prince, the son of King Salman, has spearheaded an ambitious programme known as Vision 2030, aiming to make the oil-rich conservative kingdom a hub for global innovation and better able to respond to the demands of its increasingly youthful population.

Despite enduring criticism of Saudi’s human rights record and its role in the war in Yemen, business chiefs, investors and prominent media figures have been impressed by the crown prince’s rhetoric and backed his vision of a new Saudi Arabia.

The showcase of this international support was set to be on October 23-25 at the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh, a lavish conference to be attended by top foreign business leaders and dubbed the “Davos in the Desert” after the World Economic Forum in the Swiss resort.

But the disappearance of Khashoggi — who has not been seen since he walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 — has given chills even to those who strongly supported Mohammed bin Salman’s plans.

Turkish officials have said they believe Khashoggi — a contributor to the Washington Post who has on occasion penned articles critical of Mohammed bin Salman — was killed inside the consulate. Saudi Arabia has strongly denied this but has failed to explain the journalist’s fate.

 ‘Change ability to do business’

Charismatic British entrepreneur Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin Group, announced he is suspending two directorships linked to tourism projects in Saudi Arabia around the Red Sea due to the unexplained disappearance of Khashoggi.

Branson said he had “high hopes” for Saudi Arabia under the crown prince but added if the claims about Khashoggi’s disappearance were true it would “clearly change the ability of any of us in the West to do business with the Saudi government.”

He added Virgin would suspend discussions with Saudi Arabia over a proposed investment in Virgin Galactic, which is set to carry out its first space flight within weeks.

Meanwhile, the Future Investment Initiative has seen a litany of cancellations from prominent names who decided it best not to be associated with Saudi Arabia at this time.

The CEO of ride-hailing app Uber, Dara Khosrowshahi, said that he will no longer be attending the event unless “a substantially different set of facts emerges”, explaining he was “very troubled by the reports”.

His absence will be hugely symbolic as Saudi Arabia’s mammoth sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund (PIF), invested $3.5 billion in Uber in 2016.

An increasingly key player, the PIF also has a stake in Tesla, the electric car company headed by Elon Musk while also taking a shareholding in its rival Lucid.

However, US President Donald Trump underlined in comments which outraged supporters of Khashoggi that there would be limits to any backlash, saying he was not minded to limit arms sales to the key American ally.

“They are spending $110 billion on military equipment and on things that create jobs,” Trump said Thursday. The Saudis will “take that money and spend it in Russia or China or someplace else,” he warned.

 ‘Terribly distressed’

Media organizations, some of whose writers played some part in cheering the reforms of Mohammed bin Salman, are also deserting the Riyadh event, with the New York Times pulling out as a sponsor and Viacom CEO Bob Bakish canceling plans to appear.

Meanwhile, celebrity journalists who were invited are also staying away. New York Times columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin said on Twitter he would not be attending after being “terribly distressed by the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and reports of his murder.”

The ambiance is set to be a far cry from the first edition of the meeting in 2017, where Saudi Arabia wowed some 3,500 executives with talking robots and plans for a new city.

The tensions also create new doubts about the much-heralded IPO of state oil giant Aramco, expected to be the largest share offering in history, and which the crown prince has insisted will go ahead by early 2021.

But not all big names are staying away so far. German industrial giant Siemens, whose chief executive Joe Kaeser is invited, told AFP it had not canceled its participation but was following the situation closely.

JPMorgan Chase chief Jamie Dimon and US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are still scheduled to attend.

AFP

Germany Arrests Suspect Linked To Journalist’s Death

Armed Police officers are seen in Muenster, western Germany. (file) Credit: Friso Gentsch / dpa / AFP

 

Police in Germany have arrested a man in connection with the rape and brutal murder of Bulgarian television journalist Viktoria Marinova, Bulgarian officials said Wednesday.

But they said it does not appear that the murder was linked to her work as a journalist.

The suspect was picked up late on Tuesday at the request of Bulgarian authorities, Interior Minister Mladen Marinov told a news conference.

“We have enough proof linking this person to the scene of the crime,” he said.

The country’s chief prosecutor, Sotir Tsatsarov, named the suspect as Severin Kasimirov, born in 1997, and said he was already sought in connection with another rape and murder.

“At this stage, we do not believe that the murder is linked” to Marinova’s work. “But we are continuing to look at all hypotheses.”

“The evidence that we have at this stage leads us to believe it was a spontaneous attack to sexually abuse the victim”.

The body of 30-year-old Marinova — who presented a current affairs talk programme called “Detector” for the small TVN television channel — was discovered on a riverside path in the northern town of Ruse on Saturday.

Authorities said she died from blows to the head and suffocation. She was also raped.

The attack has shocked the country and drawn international condemnation amid speculation the murder could be linked to Marinova’s work as a journalist.

An episode of her programme aired on September 30 featured interviews with two investigative journalists from Bulgaria and Romania who had been working on corruption allegations.

She is the third journalist to be murdered in Europe in the past 12 months after Jan Kuciak in Slovakia in February and Daphne Caruana Galizia in Malta in October 2017.

AFP

Hong Kong Leader Refuses To Explain Journalist Visa Denial

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam at the government headquarters in Hong Kong on October 9, 2018.Photo: Anthony WALLACE / AFP

 

Hong Kong’s leader Tuesday refused to say why the city had denied a visa to a leading Financial Times journalist, despite escalating demands for an explanation of the unprecedented challenge to freedom of the press.

Victor Mallet, the FT’s Asia news editor, and a British national angered authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong by hosting a speech at the city’s press club by Andy Chan, the leader of a tiny pro-independence political party, in August.

Chan’s party was later banned as Beijing cracks down on any pro-independence sentiment in the semi-autonomous city.

An application to renew Mallet’s work visa was refused and on Sunday he was given seven days to leave Hong Kong.

Facing questions for the first time since the visa denial emerged last week, Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who is appointed by a pro-Beijing committee, said the decision had been handed down by immigration authorities.

She said linking it to the Chan talk was “pure speculation”.

“As a rule — not only locally, but internationally — we will never disclose, the immigration department will not disclose, the individual circumstances of the case or the considerations of this decision,” Lam told reporters.

She refused to directly acknowledge the specifics of the speculation over why Mallet was denied the visa.

However, Lam said the government “will not tolerate any advocacy of Hong Kong independence and things that harm national security, territorial integrity, and developmental interests”.

She refused to comment on how Mallet could be linked to any of those potential threats when it was pointed out that he was not an independence advocate but had simply chaired a talk by Chan at the city’s Foreign Correspondents’ Club, which has also hosted talks by Chinese officials.

Asked whether journalists could now be punished for interviewing independence activists or writing about independence, Lam said she could give no guidance but insisted that freedom of reporting and expression were “core values”.

Pro-democracy lawmakers said Tuesday they would table a motion summoning Lam and the immigration chief to the legislature to explain.

 International concern

Hong Kong enjoys rights unseen on the mainland, including freedom of speech and the press, enshrined in an agreement made when the city was handed back to China by Britain in 1997.

But there are growing fears those rights are disappearing.

Beijing regularly denies visas to foreign journalists on the mainland but it has not been a tactic used in Hong Kong.

Britain, the United States, and the European Union have expressed concern, with Canada’s consulate in Hong Kong joining the list Tuesday.

The city’s most influential lawyers have demanded an explanation and Hong Kong’s American Chamber of Commerce warned curtailing press freedom could damage the city’s competitiveness.

A journalists’ alliance has handed over petitions with more than 15,000 signatures to the government calling for answers. The petitions have now grown to more than 20,000.

Mallet, who has not spoken publicly, said he was “very grateful” to those who had signed, in Facebook and Twitter posts Tuesday.

Political analyst Willy Lam told AFP it was “very likely” that instructions had come from Beijing to penalize those who were seen as advocating independence.

“(Carrie Lam) certainly can’t contradict orders given by Beijing, including in this case,” said Lam, a professor of China studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Some pro-Beijing figures have publicly welcomed the ousting of Mallet, including well-known commentator Wat Wing-yin who wrote in conservative newspaper Ta Kung Pao: “We only asked you to leave and did not execute you by shooting. That is already the most civilized of protests.”

AFP

Hong Kong Issues One Week Ultimatum For FT Journalist To Leave Country

Chris Yeung (C), Chairperson of the Hong Kong Journalist Association, stands next to Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC) president Florence de Changy (3rd R) and legislator Claudia Mo (2nd R) October 8, 2018, handing over petitions to the government calling for an explanation of its visa rejection of Financial Times journalist Victor Mallet. Photo: Anthony WALLACE / AFP

A leading Financial Times journalist has been given seven days to leave Hong Kong as a backlash mounted Monday against an unprecedented challenge to freedom of the press in the city.

Victor Mallet, the FT’s Asia news editor, and a British national, angered authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong by hosting a speech at the city’s press club by Andy Chan, the leader of a tiny pro-independence political party.

Chan’s party has since been banned as Beijing cracks down on any pro-independence sentiment in the semi-autonomous city.

Last week it emerged Mallet’s application for a renewal of his work visa had been rejected by Hong Kong immigration authorities.

On Monday the FT said Mallet had only been granted a seven-day visitor visa after returning to the city from a trip on Sunday.

Sources with direct knowledge of the situation told AFP that Mallet was questioned at immigration and was refused automatic entry.

British citizens are usually allowed into Hong Kong without a visa and are permitted to stay for 180 days under immigration rules.

The FT said immigration officials had provided no explanation for the shortened visitor visa.

“We continue to seek clarification from the Hong Kong authorities about the rejection of his work visa renewal,” said the paper, which has its regional headquarters in Hong Kong.

The FT’s editorial board had earlier described the decision to refuse Mallet a work visa as sending a “chilling message to everyone in Hong Kong”.

Lawyers hit back

In a strident speech in August at the city’s Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC), where Mallet serves as vice president, independence activist Chan attacked China as an empire trying to “annex” and “destroy” Hong Kong.

China’s foreign ministry had asked the club to pull the talk, but the FCC refused, arguing that all sides of a debate should be heard and that it hosted a variety of speakers, including Chinese officials.

Britain and the United States have expressed concern over the visa refusal and its impact on press freedom.

On Monday, a group of the city’s most influential lawyers also hit back.

“Such rejection calls for an explanation in light of its unprecedented nature and its profound impact on Hong Kong’s press freedom,” 30 lawyers said in a statement.

The group makes up the legal subsector of the electoral committee that chooses the city’s leader.

Another legal organization, the Progressive Lawyers Group, said: “Any forced retreat of foreign media outlets would be a tragic loss for Hong Kong and must be vigilantly guarded against”.

A journalists’ alliance handed over petitions with more than 15,000 signatures to the government Monday calling for an explanation of its visa rejection.

Hong Kong authorities have said they cannot comment on Mallet’s case.

China’s foreign ministry has said it supports Hong Kong “in handling the related matters in accordance with law”, and warned other countries not to interfere.

AFP

Condemnation Trails Brutal Murder Of Journalist In Bulgaria

Bulgarian Map

 

A television journalist has been brutally murdered in Bulgaria’s northern town of Ruse, prosecutors said Sunday, with the case drawing international condemnation.

The body of 30-year-old Viktoria Marinova, identified by authorities only by her initials, was found on Saturday in a park, Ruse regional prosecutor Georgy Georgiev said.

The death was caused by blows on the head and suffocation, he added.

“Her mobile phone, car keys, glasses and part of her clothes were missing,” Georgiev said, adding that prosecutors were probing all leads — both personal and linked to Marinova’s job.

Police sources told AFP that the crime did not immediately appear linked to her work.

The OSCE’s media freedom representative Harlem Desir condemned Marinova’s killing on Twitter: “Shocked by horrific murder of investigative journalist Victoria Marinova in #Bulgaria. Urgently call for a full and thorough investigation. Those responsible must be held to account.”

Local media reported that Marinova was an administrative director of Ruse’s TVN television and had just started her own news talk show called “Detector”. The channel has not released any statement so far.

A journalist is killed on average every week around the world, according to figures compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

Among the most high-profile recent cases were Malta’s anti-corruption blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia who died in a car bombing outside her home in October 2017, and top Slovak reporter Jan Kuciak who was shot dead with his fiancee at their home in February.

Bulgaria tumbled down to 111th place in the annual RSF media freedom ranking in 2018 — lower than any other EU member state.

Widespread corruption, shady media ownership, and suspected collusion between journalists, politicians, and oligarchs have made objective reporting a constant obstacle-run, RSF said.

According to the Bulgaria-based Association of European Journalists, reporters from small regional and local media are particularly subjected to pressure from local businessmen and politicians and outright threats, often leading to self-censorship.

Violence against women has also been widespread in Bulgaria with several brutal killings of women by their ex-boyfriends and ex-husbands causing an outcry in the media recently.

AFP

Suu Kyi Defends Court Decision To Jail Reuters Reporters

 

Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi arrives for a meeting with Vietnam’s President Tran Dai Quang (not pictured) at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi on September 13, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / KHAM

 

 

 

 

Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi on Thursday robustly defended the jailing of two Reuters journalists who were reporting on the Rohingya crisis, as she hit back at global criticism of a trial widely seen as an attempt to muzzle the free press.

The country’s de facto leader acknowledged that the brutal crackdown on the Muslim minority — which the United Nations has cast as “genocide” — could have been “handled better”, but insisted the two reporters had been treated fairly.

“They were not jailed because they were journalists” but because “the court has decided that they had broken the Official Secrets Act”, she said.

Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, were each imprisoned for seven years last week for breaching the country’s hardline Official Secrets Act while reporting on atrocities committed during the military crackdown in Rakhine state.

Suu Kyi, once garlanded as a global rights champion, has come under intense pressure to use her moral authority inside Myanmar to defend the pair.

Challenging critics of the verdict — including the UN, rights groups who once lionized her, and the US Vice President — to “point out” where there has been a miscarriage of justice, Suu Kyi said the case upheld the rule of law.

“The case was held in open court… I don’t think anybody has bothered to read the summary of the judge,” she said during a discussion at the World Economic Forum, adding the pair still had the right to appeal.

Her comments drew an indignant response from rights groups who have urged the Nobel Laureate to press for a presidential pardon for the reporters.

“Open courts are designed to shed light on the justice process,” said Sean Bain of the International Commission of Jurists.

“Sadly in this case we’ve seen both institutional and individual failings to hold up the principles of rule of law and human rights.”

Army-led “clearance operations” that started last August drove 700,000 Rohingya into Bangladesh, carrying with them widespread accounts of atrocities — rape, murder, and arson — by Myanmar police and troops.

The ferocity of that crackdown has thrust Myanmar into a firestorm of criticism as Western goodwill evaporates towards a country ruled by a ruthless junta until 2015.

A UN fact-finding panel has called for Myanmar army chief Min Aung Hlaing and several other top generals to be prosecuted for genocide.

The International Criminal Court has said it has jurisdiction to open an investigation, even though Myanmar is not a member of the tribunal.

Suu Kyi, who has bristled at foreign criticism of her country, on Thursday softened her defense of the crackdown against “terrorists” from the Muslim minority.

“There are of course ways (in) which, in hindsight, the situation could have been handled better,” she said.

– War on journalism –

But she also appeared to turn responsibility onto neighboring Bangladesh for failing to start the repatriation of the nearly one million-strong Rohingya refugee community to Myanmar.

Bangladesh “was not ready” to start repatriation of the Rohingya in January as agreed under a deal between the two countries, she said.

Yet Myanmar does not want its Rohingya, denying them citizenship while the Buddhist-majority public falsely labels them “Bengali” interlopers.

Rohingya refugees refuse to return to Myanmar without guarantees of safety, restitution for lost lands and citizenship.

The jailing of the Reuters reporters has sent a chill through Myanmar’s nascent media scene.

The pair denied the charges, insisting they were set up while exposing the extrajudicial killing of 10 Rohingya Muslims in the village of Inn Din in September last year.

This week, the UN rights office accused Myanmar of “waging a campaign against journalists”.

It decried the use of the courts and the law by the “government and military in what constitutes a political campaign against independent journalism”.

A UN panel is set to release the second part of its report into the atrocities over the coming days.

Myanmar will come under the international spotlight again on September 25 when the UN General Assembly convenes in New York.

Local media have reported that Suu Kyi will not be attending the New York meeting.

AFP

Myanmar Court Postpones Verdict For Reuters Journalists

Reuters journalist Wa Lone arrives in court in Yangon on August 27, 2018 to face verdict after months of trial since they were detained on December 12, 2017. Ye Aung Thu / AFP

 

A Myanmar court postponed ruling on Monday on whether two Reuters journalists violated a state secrets law while reporting on the Rohingya crisis, with a new date set for next week.

“The verdict will be announced on September 3,” said district judge Khin Maung Maung in a swift hearing at a courthouse in Yangon, adding that the presiding judge was sick.

The decision delays the long-anticipated ruling for Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, who has been in Myanmar’s Insein prison for some eight months.

They were arrested in December after being invited to a dinner with police in Yangon and pounced on as they left the restaurant, accused of possessing classified material.

Authorities charged them with violating a colonial-era state secrets act, which carries a maximum penalty of 14 years.

But the claims were undercut by a police witness who said his superior had ordered a set-up and by arguments that the allegedly secret documents had been published in state media.

The case has sparked fears of eroding press freedoms under civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Reuters has robustly denied the charges and the newswire launched a global advocacy campaign that included diplomats, celebrities and the legal assistance of prominent rights lawyer Amal Clooney.

“Whatever they decide for us, we will not be afraid,” Wa Lone told reporters as he left the courthouse and was led back into a police van.

Kyaw Soe Oo and Wa Lone were probing the September 2017 massacre of 10 Rohingya men and boys in Myanmar’s Rakhine state a week after the military launched a sweeping crackdown on members of the stateless Muslim minority.

The United Nations and Washington have called the campaign “ethnic cleansing”, after some 700,000 Rohingya fled Rakhine for Bangladesh, bringing with them testimonies of rape, arson, and killings in the northern part of the state.

Myanmar rejects the charges but has admitted the killings investigated by Reuters took place.

AFP

Detained Journalist Jones Abiri Freed After Two Years

Detained Journalist Jones Abiri Freed After Two Years
Jones Abiri was arrested in 2016 Photo: Jones Abiri/Facebook

 

Bayelsa-based journalist, Jones Abiri, who had been detained for more than two years by the Department of State Service (DSS), has been set free.

The journalist was released on Wednesday after he was said to have met his bail conditions.

There had been an outrage within and outside the country over Mr Abiri’s arrest and detention by the DSS.

READ ALSO: Journalist Jones Abiri Appears In Court, Remanded In Keffi Prison

The publisher of the Weekly Source Magazine was arrested on July 21, 2016, at his office in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital.

He was arrested for his alleged link to armed militancy in the Niger Delta region, an allegation he denied.

Two years after his arrest, he was not charged to court.

Following public outcry, however,Abiri was eventually charged with the offence on July 27, 2018, at the Chief Magistrate’s Court in Wuse Zone 2 in Abuja, the nation’s capital.

The court later granted him bail in the sum of N2 million and two sureties whom the court said must be civil servants not lower than level 12.

Last week, the court reviewed the journalist’s bail conditions, following an application by his lawyer who said they were too stringent for his client.