Posts Tagged ‘journalists’

‘Let our journalists go!’ EU’s Juncker tells Turkey

September 13, 2017


© AFP | According to the P24 press freedom group, there are 170 journalists behind bars in Turkey, most of whom were arrested after the coup

STRASBOURG (FRANCE) (AFP) – European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called on Turkey Wednesday to “let our journalists go” following its arrests of French and German media personnel under a broad human rights crackdown.

Juncker also called on Turkey’s leaders to stop insulting their EU counterparts as “fascists and Nazis” and said its disregard for the rule of law ruled out its membership in the bloc for the “foreseeable future.”

But Juncker saved his strongest words for the fate of German and French journalists, during his annual state of the union speech to the European parliament in Strasbourg.

“Journalists belong in newsrooms not in prisons. They belong where freedom of expression reigns,” Juncker said. “I appeal to the powers that be in Turkey, let our journalists go!”

In recent months, Turkey has arrested two French journalists on terror charges for allegedly supporting Kurdish militants, but later released one of them.

Imprisoned in February, the correspondent of German daily Die Welt Deniz Yucel has been personally accused by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of working as a “terror agent”.

The European journalists are among more than 50,000 people who have been arrested in Turkey under the state of emergency imposed after last year’s foiled coup to oust Erdogan.

According to the P24 press freedom group, there are 170 journalists behind bars in Turkey, most of whom were arrested after the coup.

Juncker also came to the defence of German Chancellor Angela Merkel whose government Erdogan accused of behaving like Nazis after German authorities blocked Turkish ruling party rallies ahead of a referendum in Turkey in April.

Many expatriate Turks work in Germany.

“Stop insulting our member states by comparing their leaders to fascists and Nazis,” Juncker said.

“Europe is a continent of mature democracies. Insults create roadblocks,” the former Luxembourg premier said.

“Sometimes I get the feeling Turkey is intentionally placing these roadblocks so that it can blame Europe for any breakdown in accession talks,” he said.

“As for us, we will always keep our hands stretched out towards the great Turkish people and those who are ready to work with us on the basis of our values,” he said.

Turkey, like other accession candidates, “must give the rule of law, justice and fundamental rights utmost priority,” Juncker said.

“This rules out EU membership for Turkey for the foreseeable future,” he said.

The worsening tensions with Turkey have raised concerns over the fate of a deal struck with the EU last year that has helped stem the flow of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants into Greece.


Egypt Defends Human Rights Position After Criticism From UNHCR

September 12, 2017

CAIRO — Egypt’s United Nations envoy on Tuesday criticized U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein’s remarks on systemic violence in the country, saying they reflected “flawed logic”, state news agency MENA reported.

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U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein — UN Photo -Jean-Marc Ferré

Ambassador Amr Ramadan was quoted as saying that he had cautioned Hussein against his office becoming a “mouthpiece for paid agencies with political and economic agendas,” and he rejected his accusations, without elaborating.

At a UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva on Monday, Hussein said the state of emergency declared by the Egyptian government last April had been used to justify “systemic silencing of civil society.”

He cited reports of waves of arrests, arbitrary detention, black-listing, travel bans, asset freezes, intimidation and other reprisals against human rights defenders, journalists, political dissidents and those affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood group.

Last week Egypt came under fire from Human Rights Watch, which said in a report that there was systemic torture in the country’s jails, leading Cairo to block access to HRW’s website.

Egypt’s human rights parliamentary committee, which was critical of the report, has also developed an action plan in response, state media reported on Tuesday.

The plan reportedly includes meeting with foreign diplomats in Egypt and outside the country to explain its efforts to defend human rights.

(Reporting by Nadine Awadalla; Additional reporting by Mostafa Hashem in Cairo and Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

Control of Information Shifts Up a Gear in Run-Up to Cambodia Election — Media under pressure in Thailand, the Philippines, Myanmar and Vietnam

September 8, 2017

PHNOM PENH — Critics of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen have grown used to following upstart news service Fresh News to find out what the government’s next target might be.

From treason accusations against detained opposition leader Kem Sokha to the tax demand against the now-shuttered Cambodia Daily to allegations against the recently expelled U.S. National Democratic Institute, it was on Fresh News first.

Its rise, just as pressure is growing on more critical media, reflects a shift in control of information in the run-up to next year’s general election at the same time as a crackdown on Hun Sen’s opponents.

“If any news needs to be reported, I may contact the prime minister or the prime minister may contact me,” 37-year-old Fresh News chief executive Lim Chea Vutha told Reuters.

Lim rejected accusations it publishes unsubstantiated reports to serve the government’s interest and said it was just ambitious to break news the same as any major news agency.

Cambodia has long had one of Southeast Asia’s most open media environments, but journalists with publications critical of the government say work is becoming tougher than during any period of Hun Sen’s more than three-decade rule.

“This means an imbalance of information,” said Pa Nguon Teang, head of the partly EU-funded Voice of Democracy radio station, banned from broadcasting to its estimated 7.7 million listeners last month and now trying to publish via Facebook.

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Eighteen other radio stations were ordered off air while channels were also forbidden from rebroadcasting the U.S.-funded Voice of America and Radio Free Asia.

The Cambodia Daily newspaper, whose editor described it as “a burr in Hun Sen’s side” since it was started 24 years ago, was forced to close by a crippling $6.3 million tax bill – news of which first appeared on Fresh News.

The three-year-old publication also published the video that formed the basis for arresting opposition leader Kem Sokha for treason charges his lawyers dismiss as nonsense.

“It’s not fresh news, it’s not even fake news, it’s bad news – bad news for the future of Cambodia,” said Mu Sochua, a deputy of Kem Sokha in his Cambodia National Rescue Party.

Cambodia is not the only Southeast Asian country where the media is under pressure, with journalists and bloggers in Thailand, the Philippines, Myanmar and Vietnam facing everything from verbal threats to arrest to violence.

Hun Sen has said his attitude to media he does not like is no different to that of U.S. President Donald Trump, who has branded some liberal U.S. news organizations “fake news” and has refused to take questions from their reporters.


For Hun Sen, a 65-year-old former Khmer Rouge soldier, critical media are “like children challenging their father”, said Huy Vannak, president of the partly state-funded Union of Journalist Federations of Cambodia.

“They only mock his good faith to the nation. That’s why he’s not tolerant,” he said.

Praised openly by Hun Sen, Fresh News now has more than 100 employees. At the company’s ninth-floor offices near a busy Phnom Penh junction, signs tell journalists “the first enemy of success is laziness”.

Facebook is one of the main channels for Fresh News to publish and has also been embraced by Hun Sen since the opposition almost won the 2013 election, partly with the help of their social media strategy.

While declining to give company financial details, Lim said he received no money from the government. A government spokesman said there was no funding for Fresh News or anyone publishing on social media beyond official accounts.

Lim said he was supported only by advertising. Flipping through his mobile phone, he showed ads for everything from Range Rover to Coca-Cola to local businesses thriving in an economy growing at around 7 percent a year.

But business and government are entwined in Cambodia and the leadership and its family members control many of Cambodia’s biggest enterprises – including media businesses.

Hun Sen’s oldest daughter, Hun Mana, chairs Kampuchea Thmey Daily and Bayon TV and Radio among at least a dozen other firms. Senate president and the deputy leader of the ruling Cambodia People’s Party, Say Chhum, owns Rasmei Kampuchea, Cambodia’s most popular newspaper.

According to a 2015 study, media organizations with politically affiliated owners accounted for 41 percent of print readership and 63 percent of television viewership. Of those owners, eight out of 10 were close to the ruling party.

Businesses won’t give advertising to media seen as pro-opposition because it won’t help them, said Huy Vannak.

“The government doesn’t need to sponsor you when your content is positive. Business will come to you,” he said.

Despite international awards for its reporting, the Cambodia Daily was not a big commercial success. By the end, it said it was barely breaking even and had no hope of paying a tax bill it disputed before the Sept. 4 deadline set by government.

The paper appeared to get limited sympathy from Lim.

“It’s the right of the government to shut it down,” he said. “As we reported, it’s a legal matter.”

(Editing by Nick Macfie)

Vince Cable raises doubts about Brexit ever happening — Plus a final salute to Sir David Tang

September 2, 2017

Image result for Vince Cable, photos

FT Weekend Festival debates life after the EU and political polarisation in a post-truth era

by: Naomi Rovnick There is a growing possibility of a second referendum on Britain leaving the EU as tensions grow within the Conservative and Labour parties about the likelihood of a beneficial Brexit deal being achieved, Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable has said.

In a debate at the FT Weekend Festival held at Kenwood House in North London on Saturday, Mr Cable said: “I think there is more than a possibility that Brexit may never happen.

He added: “The balance of probability is still that it does, but there is a strong possibility of it being stopped because tensions within and between major parties are so large, that one or other may want to let the public decide on the facts whether this is something they want to go ahead with.”

Mr Cable, who became leader of the pro-EU Lib Dems at the age of 74, promising voters an “exit from Brexit,” was replying to a point made by pro-Brexit Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan who argued that Brexit would happen, but in a gradual and low-impact way.

Mr Hannan said: “The day after Brexit is going to look very much like the day before. It’s going to be a process. We will still have all the same rules and regulations we’ve assimilated for 44 years, but that’s the day the divergence can begin.”

Mr Hannan added that Britain would not be damaged by losing its access to the EU single market as it could have a “Swiss-style” deal that “keeps the essence of the single market,” despite not being a member. He also argued that leaving the EU would allow Britain to look towards a “more global future,” and strengthen trade links with non-EU economic powers.

Mr Cable, who has a reputation for being one of the most financially literate critics of British governments since 1997, argued there was “a real risk of a train crash” because it had become apparent the UK government was “woefully unprepared” for the Brexit negotiations that started with the EU in June.

The day after Brexit is going to look very much like the day before The Lib Dem leader said that prime minister Theresa May was struggling to prove Britain could strike good trade deals with non-EU economic powers. “We’ve just seen in the last few weeks how absurd this is,” he said.

“The PM has gone off to Japan to negotiate some special trade deal and they have said they would much rather deal with the EU. Mr Cable said that the government had asked India for a special deal on whisky and financial services, and that India had asked for more visas. “To which [Mrs May] said, ‘sorry we can’t, we are trying to keep people out,’ and the Indians said, ‘get on your bike’,” Mr Cable said.


Mr Hannan countered that it was normal for people to feel pessimistic about the future and that Britain had a chance of keeping the advantages of staying in the EU single market in the way Switzerland has. “We are a country of 65m people, an existing [EU] member state, a G7 country.

I can’t believe that we can’t get a similar deal,” he said. In an earlier session at the festival on fake news and social media,

Ms Gibson argued that Donald Trump’s presidential election victory was enabled by the US news audience having split into distinct information consumption spheres. “During an election campaign when the New York Times publishes a piece with maybe 162 examples of Donald Trump being mendacious,” she said, a large part of the non-NYT reading US audience would not have noticed.

“So Breitbart News jumps up and goes ‘Hillary Clinton! Emails!’ and that grabs the attention. That is polarisation.” Mr Barber said that polarisation of information and opinion had begun with the advent of Fox News and other cable news channels in the US, which “has been exacerbated by technology because it can amplify that phenomenon and it is incredibly good at picking out select groups.”

Mr Davis argued that the Facebook audience often knew to be selective about what they believed on the social platform, which has been used by some sites to spread fake news.

Ms Gibson countered: “I don’t believe people are always genuinely as sophisticated as that,” adding that some younger readers “do not know brands” enough to differentiate between trusted news brands and newer sites that may not be publishing truthful reports. An FT reader asked whether think tanks whose funding was not transparent were exacerbating the fake news phenomenon.

Ms Gibson said that when she was deputy editor of the Guardian, she had been taken in by a think-tank with an unknown agenda after NSA whistleblower Edward Snowdon provided the Guardian with top secret documents leading to revelations about surveillance of internet and phone communications. “On the Snowdon story, one [think-tank] said: ‘We want to do a day’s debate on the issues of privacy and national security.’

We took part and we worked with them for a really great seminar, and at the end I realised that the think-tank was funded entirely by [rightwing US billiona0ires] the Koch brothers,” Ms Gibson said. The Kochs “were probably the Guardian’s ideological worst enemies . . . We spent an entire day doing a think-tank with them,” she added.

Vince Cable on Brexit, ballroom dancing and keeping his balance

Financial Times


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David Tang in 2004. Photo by SAMANTHA SIN – AFP – Getty Images

Sir David Tang, who died this week, had been scheduled to speak at the festival. In his place Algy Cluff, a close friend and mentor, shared stories of the vivacious businessman and FT agony uncle.

Mr Cluff, a natural resources entrepreneur and former Grenadier Guardsman who Tang said he had modelled himself on, said he had only discovered by accident how well-connected Tang was.

Mr Cluff said that he hired Tang as an unpaid intern to help with a Chinese project after receiving a series of letters from him in the early 1980s. “I put him on probation for six months working with me, so he joined as my most lowly junior unpaid employee,” Mr Cluff said, adding that “my secretary kept coming in saying: ‘David wants you to have dinner with him’.”

Mr Cluff finally relented and went to a Chinese restaurant where he asked for Mr Tang. “The waiter bowed from the waist and took me down into a private room,” Mr Cluff said.

“And there David was presiding over a huge table where the guests included the Lord Chancellor and the chairman of ICI.”

Mr Cluff recalled how the Lord Chancellor’s wife commented: “How fortunate you are to be working for David.” Mr Cluff added: “I realised I’d met my match and began paying David a salary from then on.” FT House & Home editor Jane Owen also recalled dealing with Tang when his copy was late.

His excuses included “the Queen said you are working me too hard” and “Kate Moss says I need a day off,” she said. Mr Cluff added that during a banquet at China’s Great Hall of the People where the Chinese president and oil minister of the time were present, he told Tang: “You know, David, you’ve found a country that respects and welcomes foreign investment.”

Tang replied: “I wouldn’t be so sure” and Mr Cluff said that, sure enough, six months later he got a $50,000 bill for the banquet. Mr Cluff also remembered how, at a rehearsal for Mr Cluff’s wedding in Hong Kong, “we smelt burning and it turned out David had left his cigar on the alter”. Ms Owen added that Tang had still insisted on his sickbed that he was going to make a planned “goodbye” party on September 6 at the Dorchester, and that it would “only be 500 of my closest friends. I want it to be intimate”. Naomi Rovnick

See also:

Sir David Tang (1954–2017)


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Chancellor Angela Merkel weighs tougher approach to Turkey after arrests

September 2, 2017

German Chancellor Merkel has called for a rethink of Berlin’s attitude towards Ankara after Turkey detained two more German citizens. Relations between the countries have been deteriorating since the failed 2016 coup.

Merkel MIT Business Treffen (Getty Images/J. Koch)

There is “no legal basis” for detention in most of these cases, Merkel said, referring to the two Germans arrested on Thursday in Turkey, bringing the total number of German citizens detained in the country for political reasons to 12.

“That’s why we need to react decisively here,” she said, adding that the government would “perhaps have to rethink” its relations with Turkey.

Read more: Two more Germans detained in Turkey for political reasons

Merkel said Germany had already “significantly revamped” its ties with Ankara, but that the latest events meant “perhaps it is necessary to rethink them ever further,” adding that there would be no further talks about Ankara’s participation in an EU customs union until the current situation is resolved.

“Our demands to Turkey are very clear,” German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said. “We expect Turkey to release the German nationals who were arrested on unjustifiable grounds.”

Relations between the NATO allies have been frayed since Berlin criticized Ankara over the crackdown that followed last year’s failed coup attempt.

Arrested developments

The arrest of the two Germans on Thursday brings to 55 the number of Germans detained in Turkey, 12 of whom are being detained for political reasons and four of these have dual German-Turkish citizenship – including the German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yucel, now 200 days in detention – the German Foreign Ministry said.

Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency reported that two German citizens of Turkish origin had been detained at Antalya Airport for alleged links to the network of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara has accused of organizing last year’s attempted coup.

Confusion reigns

Germany has not officially been informed of the two new detentions, which took place at Antalya Airport on Thursday.

Berlin’s consulate in the coastal city of Izmir learned of their arrest from “non-state sources,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Adebahr told a news conference.

“We’re trying to establish what they are charged with,” said Adebahr said. “We must assume that it’s a political charge, suspicion of terrorism, as with the others.”

Diplomats had not been able to contact them, she added, with Friday’s public holiday celebrating the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha a possible reason for delays in contacting officials.

To formally warn German travelers?

There are calls for Berlin to issue a formal travel warning for Germans heading to Turkey. The government in July urged German citizens to exercise caution if traveling to Turkey but didn’t issue a formal travel warning.

Social Democrat Martin Schulz, Merkel’s main challenger in the September 24 elections, on Friday said more measures were needed to make clear Germany’s ire with Turkey over the detainments, adding that a formal warning against travel to Turkey would be one possible step.

Jürgen Hardt, a senior member of Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), told Die Welt newspaper that a further tightening of the travel guidance “should be seriously considered.”

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Cem Ozdemir, one of the leaders of the Green party, told Bild newspaper he could no longer assure anyone they would be safe in Turkey. “Erdogan is no president, but a hostage-taker,” Ozdemir told the daily newspaper Bild.

Following the arrest of human rights activist Peter Steudtner earlier this year, Berlin promised measures to impact tourism and investment in Turkey and a full “overhaul” of relations.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in August called on ethnic Turks in Germany to vote for Schultz in the elections, then said they should not support any of Germany’s main parties.

jbh/sms (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)


Trump may be inciting ‘violence’ against media — Frequent ‘reckless’ comments — Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights says

August 30, 2017


© AFP/File / by Ben Simon | The UN rights chief voiced alarm over US President Donald Trump’s verbal assaults on CNN, the New York Times and Washington Post 
GENEVA (AFP) – The UN human rights chief said Wednesday that President Donald Trump’s relentless attacks on the media could trigger violence against journalists, suggesting the US leader would be responsible.In a broad condemnation of Trump’s conduct in office, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said he viewed the US presidency as the driver of “the bus of humanity”, accusing Trump of “reckless driving”.

Zeid, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, also blasted Trump’s decision to pardon former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was convicted of criminal contempt last month for illegally profiling Hispanic immigrants.

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Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. UN Photo -Jean-Marc Ferré

On the media, Zeid voiced particular alarm over Trump’s verbal assaults on CNN, the New York Times and Washington Post.

“To call these news organisations ‘fake’ does tremendous damage and to refer to individual journalists in this way, I have to ask the question, is this not an incitement for others to attack journalists?

“And let’s assume a journalist is harmed from one of these organisations, does the president not bear responsibility for this, for having fanned this?” Zeid told reporters in Geneva.

“I believe it could amount to incitement,” he added, saying Trump had set in motion a cycle that includes “incitement, fear, self-censorship and violence.”

According to the rights chief, Trump’s assault on the media has emboldened other countries to crack down on press freedoms.

“The demonisation of the press is poisonous because it has consequences elsewhere,” Zeid said.

He expressed specific concern over Trump’s speech in Arizona earlier this month in which journalists were condemned by the US leader as “dishonest people” who “don’t like our country”.

– Supports ‘racial profiling’? –

Turning to the pardon for Arpaio, a hugely controversial figure intially targeted for prosecution by former president Barack Obama’s justice department, Zeid said he was deeply disturbed by Trump’s decision.

“I had to ask myself the question what does this mean? Does the president support racial profiling of Latinos in particular? Does he support abuse of prisoners?

“Arpaio at one stage referred to the open air prison that he set up as a ‘concentration camp'”, Zeid said, asking “does the president support this?”

Arpaio, who was known to make detainees wear pink underwear to humiliate them, housed prisoners in tent camps surrounded by barbed wire, in the scorching Arizona desert.

The former sheriff once likened the encampment to a concentration camp, although he later backed away from that remark.

– Dangerous? –

Reacting publicly for the first time to the recent unrest in Charlottesville, Virginia, Zeid denounced the racist and anti-semitic actions of neo-Nazi and white supremacists demonstrators as “an abomination” and “a nightmare.”

Zeid, who has not minced his words in previous criticism of Trump, indicated that the world was is in a perilous state with the New York billionaire in a position of global leadership.

“I almost feel that the president is driving the bus of humanity and we are careening down a mountain pass and, in taking these measures, at least from a human rights perspective it seems to be reckless driving,” he told reporters.

“You asked me in November if I thought he was dangerous,” Zeid continued. “Today the only person who can confirm that is the president himself by dint of his own actions.”

OSCE urges Trump to stop ‘attacks’ on media

August 28, 2017


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President Donald Trump speaks to the press about protests in Charlottesville after his statement on the infrastructure discussion in the lobby at Trump Tower in New York on August 15, 2017. Credit Reuters

VIENNA (AFP) – The OSCE’s media freedom watchdog on Monday called on US President Donald Trump to tone down his virulent attacks on the press, warning that they “degrade” the media’s key role in a democracy and open journalists to abuse.

Since taking office in January, the 71-year-old leader has made a habit of publicly bashing mainstream media outlets like The New York Times, which he regularly denounces as “fake news” on his Twitter account.

“I urge the United States administration to refrain from delivering such attacks on the media,” Harlem Desir, the media freedom representative of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, said in a letter to the White House.

“The US president’s statements are deeply problematic in that they degrade the essential role the media plays in every democratic society, holding governments to account and offering a platform for a diversity of voices,” read the letter addressed to US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Desir highlighted remarks Trump made at a rally in Arizona on January 22, during which the billionaire accused the media of being “truly dishonest”, “crooked” and of “making up stories”.

“In addition to undermining the credibility of the media, such statements, especially those identifying the media as the ‘enemy of the people’, could also make journalists more vulnerable to being targeted with violence and abuse,” Desir said.

The Vienna-based OSCE, an international election and war monitor, also keeps track of media freedom issues throughout the OSCE’s 57 member states, which include the US and Russia.

France’s President Macron Discusses Fate of Detained Journalist, Syria With Turkey’s Erdogan — Macron May Be Making Others Uneasy

August 27, 2017

PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron spoke on Sunday with Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan about efforts to free a French journalist detained in the country, and the two leaders also discussed the Syrian crisis.

A statement from Macron’s office on Sunday said Macron had demanded the release and return to France of journalist Loup Bureau, who was seized by Turkish border guards on the frontier with Iraq in early August.

“The two presidents agreed to make further contact, and at the ministerial level as well, in order to arrive at a positive outcome,” the statement from the Elysee Palace said of the journalist’s plight.

They also discussed the situation in Syria, Iraq and the Gulf region as well as the battle against terrorism, with France working to create a specialist contact group to discuss Syria on the sidelines of the United Nations general assembly.

(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta; editing by Susan Thomas)


By Henry Samuel and 

Emmanuel Macron will seek to prove France is taking the lead in Europe on Monday when he hosts a summit with Germany’s Angela Merkel and Italian and Spanish leaders.

The get together between the leaders of Western Europe’s top leaders bar Britain’s comes in the wake of a furious diplomatic row between the French president and Poland, which slammed the 39-year old wunderkindt as “arrogant” and “inexperienced”.

After a faultless start to his presidency in terms of statesmanship, clouds are gathering for Mr Macron.

Three months into his five-year term his popularity has plunged at home and he faces a potential backlash against labour reforms he intends to push through by decree next month – just as French workers and unions return to work after their long summer break.

Mr Macron has been hit by scandals over the role of his wife, Brigitte, and the amounts spent on his make up artist
Mr Macron has been hit by scandals over the role of his wife, Brigitte, and the amounts spent on his make up artist CREDIT: AFP

He also come under fire this week after it emerged that he had spent €26,000 on makeup in his first three months in power. …

Read the rest:


Majority of people in France now dissatisfied with Macron: poll


PARIS (Reuters) – Most French voters are now dissatisfied with Emmanuel Macron’s performance, a poll showed on Sunday, a dramatic decline for a president who basked in a landslide election victory less than four months ago.

The poll, conducted by Ifop for newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche (JDD), showed Macron’s “dissatisfaction rating” rising to 57 percent, from 43 percent in July.

Forty percent expressed satisfaction with the centrist leader – down 14 points from July.

French government spokesman Christophe Castaner said the ruling party was going through a tricky time, but added that displeasing some people was a price worth paying if the government wanted to push through reforms.

“Yes, we are encountering difficulties, but you cannot just spend your time only looking at polls when you’re in government. We are there to transform the country. Our country needs us to take risks, and we are taking risks,” Castaner told BFM TV.

Macron, who is midway through a schedule of official visits to various European capitals, has suffered a number of setbacks since being elected, including tough debates in parliament over labor reform, a standoff with the military and cuts to housing assistance.

Social media commentators and political opponents criticized the president after it emerged he spent 26,000 euros ($31,000) on makeup during his first 100 days in office and his office also backed down on plans to give his wife a formal, paid role after a public backlash.

Bernard Sananes, head of French polling company Elabe, said the latest survey could encourage Macron’s political opponents, after his party won a commanding majority in parliament.

“It could mean, for the government, that the opposition mobilizes itself again,” Sananes told BFM TV.

The Ifop poll showed the cumulative drop in Macron’s popularity ratings since May was bigger than that of previous Socialist president Francois Hollande over the same period.

The poll also showed a drop in popularity for Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, with 47 percent expressing satisfaction with him – down 9 points from last month.

Macron, France’s youngest leader since Napoleon, faces a big test next month when the far-left CGT trade union leads a rally to protest against plans to deregulate the jobs market.

“Now is the key time, with the labor executive orders to be presented,” said Francois Savary, chief investment officer at Geneva-based investment firm Prime Partners, who has an “underweight” position on French equities. ($1 = 0.8386 euros)

Additional reporting by Elizabeth Pineau and Myriam Rivet; Editing by John Stonestreet/Keith Weir

Turkey opposition chief challenges Erdogan with ‘justice’ congress

August 26, 2017


© AFP / by Fulya OZERKAN | Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), his hosting a four-day summit on alleged rights abuses
ÇANAKKALE (TURKEY) (AFP) – Turkey’s main opposition leader on Saturday warned President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that the whole country has a “thirst for justice”, opening an unprecedented four-day meeting protesting alleged violations under his rule.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, head of the secular Republican People’s Party (CHP), is hoping the “justice congress” in the western Canakkale region will keep up the momentum of a month-long march highlighting judicial abuses in Turkey after the July 15 failed coup.

With politics heating up in Turkey even two years before the next elections, Erdogan will later on Saturday host a mass rally at the opposite end of the country marking the anniversary of the 1071 Battle of Malazgirt where pre-Ottoman tribes defeated the Byzantines.

More than 50,000 people have been arrested under Turkey’s state of emergency, imposed after last year’s failed coup, and almost three times that number have lost their jobs, including teachers, judges, soldiers and police officers.

“Eighty million have a thirst for justice,” Kilicdaroglu said, referring to Turkey’s population.

“It is my duty to seek justice. It is my duty to stand by the innocent and be against tyrants,” he told some 10,000 people attending Saturday’s event.

– ‘The last straw’ –

Kilicdaroglu earlier this summer walked 450 kilometres (280 miles) from Istanbul to Ankara to protest against the sentencing of one of his MPs, Enis Berberoglu, to 25 years in jail for leaking classified information to an opposition newspaper.

Under the simple slogan “justice”, the march culminated last month in a huge rally in Istanbul that attracted hundreds of thousands, the biggest event staged by Erdogan’s critics in years.

Kilicdaroglu condemned the crackdown as a “civilian coup” and said that the jailing of Berberoglu “became the last straw.”

Referring to the jailing of journalists after the coup bid, Kilicdaroglu said: “You cannot talk about law, rights and justice in a country where more than 150 journalists are in prison.”

The pick of the region for the CHP congress is also significant as it was the site of the World War I Battle of Gallipoli where the Ottoman army successfully repelled Allied forces.

The CHP was founded in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who was a Turkish commander in the Gallipoli campaign where the heroism of Turkish troops is said to have helped lay the foundation of the modern republic.

In a relaxed atmosphere, supporters pitched tents under shady woods to be their homes for the duration of the four-day congress which will have special sessions on different kinds of rights abuses.

“I hope the congress will help raise awareness for a justice which does not exist in Turkey right now,” said Kismet Seyhan Aydin, from the Aegean city of Izmir, a CHP stronghold.

“I believe it will be a new start for the justice to be restored,” she added.

Kemal Barisik, having breakfast outside his tent wearing a hat with the justice slogan said: “I believe that Kilicdaroglu is capable of restoring justice. Before the justice march, people did not have faith.”

– ‘Worrying about my vest’ –

Erdogan won an April referendum boosting his powers but Turkey is already in the throes of what appears to be a long election campaign, heading to November 2019 parliamentary and presidential elections.

The Turkish president, who is already signalling he will stand for another term, has urged the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to get in better shape for the election fight.

In a sign of the rancour between the two men, a photo depicting the CHP leader wearing a white undershirt while dining in a trailer during the justice march drew a sharp response from Erdogan.

The mildly-spoken Kilicdaroglu is sometimes compared by supporters to the Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi, and Erdogan took particular offence at a newspaper headline describing him as “citizen Kemal”.

Kilicdaroglu responded that Erdogan needed to address the “country’s problems” instead of “bothering with my vest from morning to evening”.

by Fulya OZERKAN

Turkey dismisses over 900 public sector workers — purge following last year’s failed coup looks endless — state of emergency to crack down on all forms of opposition and media

August 25, 2017



© AFP | President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has cracked down hard in the wake of the attempted coup to overthrow him last year
ANKARA (AFP) – Turkey has dismissed over 900 public sector officials in the latest wave of the purge that has followed last year’s failed coup, according to an emergency decree published in the official gazette Friday.Over 140,000 people have been sacked or suspended from their jobs since July 2016 over alleged links to US-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, accused of ordering the attempted coup. Gulen denies the charges.

More than 50,000 people including journalists have been arrested under the state of emergency imposed last year in a crackdown that has caused international concern.

A total of 928 people were sacked in the latest decree, including civil servants working in the defence, foreign and interior ministries as well as military personnel.

Turkish authorities also stripped 10 retired brigadier generals of their rank, according to the decree.

But the decree said 57 civil servants and military personnel returned to their jobs including 28 officials from the justice ministry and related institutions.

Six organisations including three media outlets in the southeast were shut down including Dicle Media News Agency based in the Kurdish-majority city of Diyarbakir.

Dozens of media outlets including newspapers and broadcasters have been closed down since July.

A second decree tied Turkey’s National Intelligence Organisation (MIT) to the president — previously linked to the prime ministry — while the presidency would head a new body called the National Intelligence Coordination Board (MIKK).

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s authorisation would be needed for the MIT head to be investigated, according to the decree.

The president would also need to approve any request made for the MIT chief, currently Hakan Fidan, to act as a witness in court.

The move appears to be part of the measures taken to implement changes approved in the April referendum on expanding Erdogan’s powers to create an executive presidency.

Most of the reform measures are due to come into effect after the 2019 presidential and parliamentary elections.

Critics have accused the government of using the state of emergency to crack down on all forms of opposition. But Turkish authorities insist that it is necessary to ensure Turkey’s security from multiple threats it faces from Gulen and Kurdish militants.