World Press Freedom Index 2021: India remains “one of the world’s most dangerous countries” for journalists
The World Press Freedom Index 2021 published by the international journalism body, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is here. Congratulations! India has not slipped further on this scale. India retains 142 out of 180 spots. However, the current position is not a healthy one, to begin with. India continues to be amongst the countries classified as “bad” for journalism.
India has been listed as one of the countries that are dangerous for journalists trying to do their jobs. The list was topped by Norway followed by Finland and Denmark. Eritrea is in the 180th position. North Korea is ranked at 179, Turkmenistan at 178, and China at 177.
India has been constantly sliding down its position since 2016 (133). Nepal and Sri Lanka also have performed better than India in the South Asian region.
The report highlighted various points like Prime Minister Narendra Modi “tightens his grip on media”. Journalists “are exposed to every kind of attack, including police violence against reporters, ambushes by political activists, and reprisals instigated by criminal groups or corrupt local officials” the report pointed out.
The report also pointed out the vulnerability of the critical journalists “to public condemnation in the form of extremely violent social media hate campaigns that include calls for them to be killed, especially if they are women”.
The report suggested that draconian laws exist in most of these low-ranking countries and are “particularly instructive”. The report also called out the repressive actions and curtailing of the usage of social media.
The report also highlights that journalism, the main vaccine against disinformation, is completely or partially blocked in 73% of the 180 countries ranked by the organisation.
The report stated that only 12 of the Index’s 180 countries (7%) can claim to offer a favourable environment for journalism.
Last year the report was not well received by the Government. Union Minister for Information and Broadcast Prakash Javadekar had tweeted on May 2, 2020, expressing his discontentment over the survey and said that India enjoys absolute press freedom. He also remarked that sooner or later such surveys would be exposed.
The report also recalls that there has been a dramatic deterioration in press freedom during the pandemic. There has been a significant drop in the level of trust people have in journalists.
RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire said that the production and distribution of information “are too often blocked by political, economic, technological and, sometimes, even cultural factors”.
Brutal Assault on the Brazilian Government
Many believed that thousands of Jair Bolsonaro’s followers assaulted Congress, the presidential mansion, and the highest court in Brasilia on Sunday to start a military coup. Since President LuizInácio Lula da Silva triumphed in a closely fought runoff election on October 30, many Bolsonaro supporters have pleaded with the military to intervene. After a divisive campaign highlighting the country’s bitter divisions, it was the most significant attack on Brazil’s key institutions since the end of a military dictatorship and the return to democracy in the 1980s. Here is what you need to know about brutal assault on the Brazilian government.
Why was the election such a spectacular event:
This election was so dramatic because it depicted two enormous characters representing opposites in politics. Leftist Lula, a former labor union leader, is admired by those who credit him with putting policies in place that lifted millions out of poverty during his two terms in power from 2003 to 2011, but despised by those who see him as a symbol of corruption. In 2017, he was found guilty of corruption and money laundering and was given a nearly 10-year prison term. He was a 77-year-old cancer survivor who was released in 2019 following the adoption of a new detention policy by the Supreme Court. The Court later overturned his conviction on procedural grounds in 2021. Former army captain Bolsonaro, 67, has been hospitalized several times since being stabbed while campaigning in 2018. His supporters view him as a defender of traditional family values and a campaigner against corruption, which are crucial campaign issues in a predominantly conservative country. The president’s opponents have referred to him as a far-right authoritarian and said he has promoted sexism, racism, and homophobia.
How did the vote count turn out:
Lula won the runoff election by a razor-thin margin of 51% to 49% over Bolsonaro. He entered office on January 1 with the promise of uniting a nation whose divides had, if anything, grown worse throughout the campaign. On the day Lula was validated, Bolsonaro supporters set fire to vehicles in the city’s downtown area, and in late December, a device was discovered in a fuel truck close to the airport.
Why were Bolsonaro’s followers calling for military action
Bolsonaro’s supporters want the military to intervene because, during the election campaign last year, Bolsonaro and his allies spread a significant amount of false information and made snide remarks about the political process. When the country’s long-established electronic voting system was attacked with unsubstantiated accusations by the then-president, his supporters began to question the validity of the results. Conflicts with the country’s courts arose as a result. Even though his followers organized sizable rallies and spread conspiracies, Bolsonaro waited two days after the runoff to make an unclear speech and has never publicly admitted defeat.
After the election, What did his followers do:
In the days following the election, trucks were used to block roadways all around the nation before being removed on a court order. Then, in anticipation of a military intervention they believed Bolsonaro, who frequently talked favorably of Brazil’s previous dictatorship, had hinted at in his rallies, crowds of supporters started to amass outside army headquarters across the nation. Even when Lula assumed power, hundreds still camped outside the bases.
What transpired in Brazil:
In Brasilia, On January 8, tens of thousands of rioters assaulted Congress, the presidential palace, and the Supreme Court, leaving a path of devastation with many clad in Brazilian flags or sporting the yellow and green national jersey. Historic structures were defaced, while journalists and police officers came under attack. The palaces’ windows were broken by furniture being hurled through them. The doors to the closet where Judge Moraes’ robes were stored were pulled off, and the justice’s chairs in the highest court were thrown around. Videos online showed the vandals carrying the piece of wood bearing the justice’s name as if it were a trophy. Several works of art were torn or scratched, including the well-known 20th-century painter Di Cavalcanti’s painting Asmulatas.
What were people’s responses to the attack:
Members of the military police began removing the rioters from the buildings after they had been free to wander for around three hours. It took another four hours for the attackers to leave the area. While in Sao Paulo to assess the effects of the recent torrential rains, Lula delivered an enraged address in which he demanded immediate intervention in the Federal District government. He accused Bolsanaro of being the reason for the disturbance and pledged to punish anyone who took part or helped finance it. After clearing the premises of the rioters, Bolsonaro denounced the “depredations and invasions of public facilities, but claimed that the incident was comparable to acts done by the left in 2013 and 2017. Both of those years saw sizable but significantly less violent public demonstrations. Bolsonaro denied Lula’s accusation that he was complicit. Moraes also ordered the removal of the encampments in front of the army headquarters, which resulted in around 1,500 arrests, and suspended the Bolsonaro-supporting governor of the Federal District for 90 days at the same time.
Numerous inquiries started practically right away, and more are currently being explored. The Federal District’s civil police kept track of the several people detained following the riot. The federal police and the federal highway police are looking into who may have helped Bolsonaro’s supporters set up camp in front of the army headquarters for such a long time, as well as the funding of the buses that transported rioters from other states to Brasilia. To receive information about people accountable for the turmoil on January 8, the Ministry of Justice set up a dedicated email account. The municipal and federal governments are conducting internal investigations to look into potential collusion between the security officers and the vandals. It’s being discussed to launch a congressional investigation in February.
China Increase its Presence in Nepal While Prachanda is in Power
With their numerous run-ins with the Indian administration, “Pro-China” Prachanda and KP Sharma Oli have hinted at an uncertain future for India-Nepal relations. On December 26, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, also known as Prachanda, reclaimed his position as prime minister of Nepal by teaming up with the late KP Sharma Oli. The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) is led by Prachanda, while Oli leads the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist).
As both communist leaders are primarily believed to have a pro-China stance, the Prachanda-Oli combination taking power in Kathmandu is a reason for concern for India’s strategic interests. This occurs when China and India compete for geopolitical power in Nepal.
How was the Prachanda-Oli Team Able to Make a Comeback?
Nepal has experienced frequent government transitions for many years due to weak coalition governments. These alliances have included different mixes of parties.In one such alliance from July 2021 until December 2022, Sher Bahadur Deuba’s Nepali Congress party and Prachanda’s Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) were both center-left parties. The time when Deuba served as prime minister. In the election held on November 20, this partnership, however, fell short of securing a parliamentary majority. Deuba turned down Prachanda’s proposal for the prime ministerial post during talks to create the next administration.
Then, Prachanda left the group to join forces with the Communist Party of Nepal, led by the former prime minister and opponent Oli (Unified Marxist-Leninist). They were joined by a few smaller parties as well. The pair returned to power thanks to rekindling a coalition between the two largest communist parties in Nepal. In addition, the two established a partnership and controlled Nepal between 2018 and 2021.
How Does China’s Expanding Footprint in Nepal Affect India
The Prachanda-Oli administration “will not be as sympathetic to India as the Deuba administration,” according to Harsh V Pant, vice president of studies and foreign policy at the Observer Research Foundation. According to Nepali scholar and journalist Akanshya Shah, Delhi would have preferred the earlier alliance between the Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre), as the two communist parties’ reunion benefits China.
According to experts, China is thought to have had a significant role in the 2018–2021 period in uniting the two communist parties since it favors a communist-run government in Kathmandu. In support of their argument, experts point out how China entered Nepal strategically between 2018 and 2021. This has increased India’s worries that as Nepal develops closer connections with Beijing, Kathmandu may prioritize Chinese interests at the expense of Indian ones.
Prachanda is also reported to have a close relationship with the Communist Party of China directly. As an illustration, when Prachanda took office as Nepal’s prime minister for the first time in 2008, he defied precedent by making China his first official foreign destination rather than India.Ideology is crucial in determining how Nepal’s domestic politics influence its foreign policy. Marxist-Maoists who are ideologically closer to the Chinese communist party are likely to run for president, speaker of the house, and prime minister again; therefore, this would undoubtedly impact India, especially the governing BJP.
However, future relations between India and Nepal do have potential. The direction of the relationship is a source of concern. Still, the new Nepali administration will work to strike a balance between India and China and take a more practical approach to relations. As working with India is in Nepal’s best interest, it is unlikely to be an issue for India in the long run. India will now attempt to communicate with the newly elected Nepalese government.
Additionally, Delhi should prioritize religious and cultural affinities, interact with all segments of Nepal’s political spectrum, and capitalize on the goodwill generated by the 2015 earthquake reconstruction and Covid-19 pandemic to help forge stronger ties with Kathmandu.
What is Prachanda-background Oli’s with Delhi in terms of Hostility?
There has always been conflict. Prachanda and Oli, who previously oversaw an ultra-leftist uprising in Nepal, have had numerous run-ins with Delhi over the years. India has experienced discomfort due to such friction on multiple occasions. Several actions were taken by the previous Oli-Prachanda administration.
Kathmandu had raised an India-Nepal border dispute during their 2018–2021 coalition when India concentrated on the military standoff with China along the Line of Actual Control in 2020. The country’s parliament adopted a startling new political map of Nepal, including parts of Uttarakhand. Delhi had cautioned Nepal against “artificially enlarging” its territorial claims.
Prachanda has already sparked a different border conflict along the Nepal-Bihar border by claiming territory that India claims belongs to it. Worse still, Prachanda wanted a revision of the 1950 Friendship Treaty, which serves as the foundation for cooperation between the two neighbors in matters of defense and foreign affairs. He made the same demand again in July because he thought the deal was biased in India’s favor.
The 2015 Madhesi agitation was another critical issue in which Prachanda-Oli and Delhi took different positions. India took exception to the final version of Nepal’s proposed Constitution because it failed to address the concerns of the Madhesi and Tharu ethnic groups about being marginalized. The two populations, concentrated along the Indian border, have a close cultural connection to India. A Madhesi alliance had Prachanda’s initial support, but he unexpectedly changed his position, leaving the group politically isolated. Delhi did not appreciate this abandonment.
In retaliation, the Modi administration imposed a six-month blockade on Nepal, which led to severe shortages in the landlocked nation. Oli, the prime minister at the time, accused India of aiding the blockage to overcome the connection difficulty. India was considerably more worried about this. Only when Deuba’s coalition overthrew Oli in 2021 did relations improve. Similar to how he did it in 2016, Oli claimed that India was planning to overthrow his government.
The Chinese Communist Party: Endangering World Peace and Stability
The main threat now comes from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which undermines global stability in order to further its own hegemonic goals. The People’s Republic of China (PRC), which is governed by the CCP, is not a model global citizen despite attempts to defend its nefarious deeds. The CCP, which is led by General Secretary Xi Jinping, is elevating its position at the expense of others in at least six ways:
Economic Abuses that Are Predatory
Through extensive subsidies to favored businesses, intellectual property theft, forced tech transfer, and unethical trade and investment activities, the PRC violates its obligations to the World Trade Organization as well as global norms and standards. To gain unfair market access, CCP-controlled businesses undersell. Through fraudulent lending practices and disregard for international labor and environmental standards, the One Belt One Road Initiative (BRI or OBOR) preys on neighboring nations. The PRC damages the economies of other countries, tramples on the rule of law, invades the sovereign territory, unfairly advantages Chinese workers and businesses, and uses economic pressure to intimidate governments over unrelated political and strategic problems.
The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is to be transformed into a “world-class military” by the year 2049, according to the PRC’s Military-Civil Fusion policy, which calls for appropriating cutting-edge domestic and foreign civilian technology. Through BRI and agreements for military cooperation, the PLA aims to project force globally in order to both rule the Indo-Pacific region and confront the United States on a global scale. Beijing keeps up the pace of its covert nuclear arsenal development, which might result in a ten-year trebling of its stockpile. By deploying its military to intimidate its neighbors, threaten marine trading channels, and destabilize boundaries, Beijing raises the likelihood of confrontation from the South China Sea to the Himalayas.
Global Norms and Values Undercut
By breaking its obligations and using international organizations to further its own unilateral strategic objectives, such as establishing a new world order ruled by the CCP, the PRC damages the international system. The PRC frequently inserts language into international agreements that advance the party’s authoritarian philosophy and goals, and it threatens nations who disagree. BRI and other PRC schemes encourage corruption, undermine positive growth, and place recipients under unmanageable debt loads.
Coercive Techniques Used Abroad
Global propaganda was disseminated by CCP-controlled media, which also influenced international news and entertainment outlets to support its dogma. The CCP’s United Front Work Department and allied proxies coerce and co-opt foreign officials at all levels of government, the Chinese diaspora, and economic interests to back its bogus narratives and steer clear of subjects the Party finds humiliating. By encouraging foreign researchers to engage in dishonest and illegal activities for the PRC’s economic, scientific, and military objectives, the CCP’s presence on foreign campuses undermines academic freedom and the integrity and security of the global research industry. The CCP coerces and bribes foreign governments to choose PRC-based 5G providers like Huawei and ZTE in order to acquire access to private information, intellectual property, and the management of vital infrastructure.
Abandonment of Human Rights
Driven by Marxist-Leninist ideology and imperialist nostalgia, the CCP stifles dissent and limits the rights and freedoms of Chinese citizens, including through forced population control, arbitrary detention, censorship, and forced labor, violations of religious freedom, and pervasive media and internet censorship. Uyghurs, Christians, and other racial and ethnic minorities continue to be victimized by the CCP’s excesses. It continues to exert control over Hong Kong and keep foreign critics quiet while maintaining an iron grip over Tibet. To hide its violations of human rights at home and abroad, the CCP utilizes international organizations, democratically elected governments, and businesses as pawns.
The PRC’s record on environmental issues is appalling. China is the biggest annual producer of greenhouse gases and marine debris in the world, as well as the biggest builder and financier of dirty coal-burning power plants. It also engages in the worst illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, and is the biggest consumer of illegal wildlife and timber products in the world, to name a few. Beijing’s unrestrained exploitation of natural resources and exportation of its careless disdain for the environment via BRI endangers the global economy and public health.
OIC Hypocrisy on China: Why is OIC mum on Uighur Genocide?
In 2017 Xi Jinping at the Communist Party conference stressed that all religions must be ‘Chinese-oriented’. Over the years his party’s policies have been suppressing the voice of the Uighur Muslims in the Xinjiang region of China. Groupings like the Organisation of Islamic countries (OIC) which talk about Muslim solidarity and brotherhood, the 57-member organisation often brings the Kashmir issue to the table but one can hardly find any reaction of OIC against the Chinese genocide of Uighur Muslims. In recent decades the population of Uighurs has declined from 80 percent to 45.8 percent whereas the Han population grew from 5 percent to 40 percent in the Xinjiang region (1941 to 1981). The Uighur activists have also alleged Chinese authorities of destroying mosques and tombs. Since 2017 the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has constructed more than 1200 detention camps for Uighur Muslims with an investment of $700mn. In this blogpost, we are going to explore what explains OIC hypocrisy on China.
In March 2022, the 48th session of the Council of Foreign ministers organised by OIC invited Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi as a ‘special guest’ and thanked him for the developmental work that Beijing is doing for the Muslim population in different countries under its Border and Road Initiative (BRI).
Whereas, on the other hand, OIC talks about full solidarity with the people of Jammu and Kashmir and asks New Delhi to reverse its actions taken on 5 August 2019 (Article 370). Statements like these highlight the double standards of OIC, and point out that they are speaking for Kashmir while also keeping silent on Uighurs working under the influence of some powers. They also support China whenever there is criticism against China for its repressive policies against Uighurs (UNHRC is one such example when the US-led motion asked for a debate on human rights violations in Xinjiang).
Who are Uighur Muslims?
In China, they reside near the Xinjiang region, which is also known as ‘the new frontier’, and earlier it was part of the Russian Empire. They are a Muslim minority of the Turkish ethnic group, whose origin can be traced to Central Asia and East Asia. A significant number of Uighur Muslims also reside in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan.
It is estimated that China has detained around 1 million Uighur Muslims in detention camps, where they had forced psychological indoctrination as they had to read the ideology of the Communist Party of China and give thanks to Chinese President Xi Jinping. They had to suffer sexual abuse and other forms of torture (like forcing women to get sterilisation) if they didn’t follow the doctrinarian process.
Accompanied by a ‘Shoot at sight’ order for any individual who tries to escape the camp, there is high-level surveillance to see that they don’t get to consume any content other than what the Chinese authorities want them to see.
Satellite images suggest that the number of these camps is increasing at a rapid pace.
What explains OIC Hypocrisy on China?
Members of OIC are mainly authoritative countries and China uses this to its advantage by not interfering in their domestic politics and supporting them in protecting their sovereignty and territorial integrity (to prevent the other Arab Spring). China provides them unconditional loans without questioning them over human rights violations, rule of law, and other social factors, for example, Pakistan which is under scrutiny for its state-sponsored terrorism received a loan of $62 billion for infrastructure under China’s BRI. The Foreign Ministry of China stated it will invest over $400 billion in nearly 600 projects across the Muslim-majority countries under the BRI. Beijing, taking the course of energy diplomacy, has become the regular crude oil export destination for Saudi Arabia, Iran, Kuwait, and Oman. On the religious front, there is China Islamic Association (CIA), a government body to discuss Islamic discourse and looks after their religious activities.
The Reaction of the Global Community against the Uighurs Persecution
In August 2022, a report by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) concluded that ‘serious human rights violations’ against the Uighur and ‘other predominantly Muslim communities have been committed.
The US, with other like-minded countries (including G7), has called for uniting against China and providing all assistance to the victims, and has also asked for independent investigators to be allowed access to the controversial region of Xinjiang for proper investigations as this is a ‘Crime against Humanity’.
China’s response to the report was as follows, “The so-called assessment is orchestrated and produced by the US and some western forces. It is completely illegal and null and void,” (Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin).
Time and again, China has escaped global interrogations regarding its problematic policies and manages to somehow justify its actions and push the issues in question under the carpet. This is possible because of the upper hand China has economically, and many other privileges like the Veto power. It has so far been successful in maintaining a cordial and diplomatic relationship with a majority of countries in the world, but it is high time that it is called out for all the atrocities they subject the Uighur Muslims to, and they get justice and also end OIC hypocrisy on China.
President Joe Biden’s Conversation with the Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen
President Joe Biden landed in Cambodia on Saturday and supported the ASEAN nations. Before the eagerly anticipated Group of 20 summits next week in Indonesia, where Biden will meet with Xi for the first time in person since he took office, there will be a weekend of meetings in Cambodia. Before meeting with Xi, the president can engage with US allies at the ASEAN summits and the East Asia Summit on Sunday, both in Phnom Penh.
The US-ASEAN Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, which, according to Biden, “will tackle the biggest issues of our time, from climate to health security, defend against the significant threats to rule-based order and threats to the rule of law, and build an Indo-Pacific that’s free and open, stable and prosperous, resilient and secure,” was announced as “another critical step” toward building on the group’s progress during his remarks at the summit. He cited a budget proposal for $850 million in support for Southeast Asia while praising the US’s current financial commitments to ASEAN.
“This is my third journey and third summit, my second in person.” The value reflects the United States’ commitment to our relationship with ASEAN and our dedication to the region’s centrality. The core of the Indo-Pacific strategy of my administration is ASEAN. In his opening remarks to the meeting, Biden said, “And we continue to reinforce our resolve to work in lockstep with an empowered, united ASEAN.”
To build on the ASEAN leaders’ conference in Washington earlier this year, the president’s first meeting in Cambodia was with Prime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodia.
From the beginning of his presidency, Biden “was intent on elevating our engagement in the Indo-Pacific,” according to national security adviser Jake Sullivan, and his attendance at the ASEAN and East Asia summits this weekend will highlight his accomplishments to date, including the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework unveiled earlier this year and security partnership initiatives.
“He’s coming into this series of summits with that track record of success and purpose behind him, and he wants to be able to use the next 36 hours to build on that foundation to move American engagement forward, as well as to deliver several actual, practical initiatives,” Sullivan said.
New initiatives on maritime cooperation, internet connectivity, and economic investment are some of these valuable measures, according to Sullivan. He added that Biden will soon begin a new maritime initiative that will “focus on using radio frequencies from commercial satellites to be able to track dark shipping, illegal and unregulated fishing, and also to improve the capacity of the countries of the region to respond to disasters and humanitarian crises.”
Further, he added, Biden will also emphasize a “forward-deployed posture” toward regional defense to demonstrate that the US is actively pursuing security cooperation.
Biden also mentioned a brand-new US-ASEAN electric car infrastructure program during his speech.
He described the project as “a collaborative effort to build an integrated electric car ecosystem in Southeast Asia, enabling the region to achieve sustainable energy, economic growth, and ambitious emissions reduction targets.”
Discussions on coordination “to continue to impose costs and build pressure on the junta” will also be centered on Myanmar, which was the subject of a February 2021 coup that ousted the country’s democratically elected government.
Concerns raised by Biden regarding Chinese activity at the Cambodian Ream Naval Base. The president expressed concern over the circumstances at Ream Naval Base and emphasized the value of complete transparency regarding the PRC (China’s) military activities there.
The US President congratulated Cambodia’s Prime Minister for backing Ukraine at the UN and spoke about the turmoil in military-ruled Myanmar.
President Biden also conveyed his gratitude to Cambodia for supporting resolutions at the UN to defend Ukraine from the brutal assault of Russia.
He thanked Cambodia for holding the ASEAN helm through a trying year.
The leaders “reflection on the historic US-ASEAN Special Summit’s success in Washington, DC and applauded plans to establish a US-ASEAN Comprehensive Strategic Partnership at the annual US-ASEAN Summit later that day.”
Along with the ASEAN Five Point Consensus, they also discussed the crisis in Burma and ASEAN’s reaction, highlighting the international community’s crucial role in restoring of democracy and stability in Burma.
In addition, Biden urged releasing activists like Seng Theory and a dual US-Cambodia citizen arrested on politically motivated allegations. The commitment of the United States to the Cambodian people and their goals for a more wealthy, democratic, and independent nation was reaffirmed by President Biden.
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