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News of the week
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India’s Supreme Court protects freedom of online expression
India’s Supreme Court has emphasised the freedom of expression as a fundamental right. It declared unconstitutional an IT-law clause according to which the police could arrest people for statements made on Facebook and other internet platforms. This clause had allowed state authorities to harass persons who had spelled out criticism of political leaders or the state of social and political affairs, the judges argued.
In the Supreme Court’s view, there are reasonable constitutional restrictions on the freedom of expression, but the IT law had exceeded those limits. However, the judges upheld another clause in the same law that allows the government to block websites that are likely to stir sectarian violence, create social disorder or affect India’s relations with other countries.
The Supreme Court dealt with the matter because of a number of petitions filed by non-governmental groups. The first of these petitions, however, was filed by an individual law student. The Internet and Mobile Association of India, an industry association, welcomed the ruling: “This judgment will herald a new phase in the growth and evolution of the internet in India.”
Source: Times of India, Financial Express
Yemen crisis pulls Middle East into war
War has erupted in Yemen. After Houthi rebels were increasingly gaining control of the country, a coalition of more than ten Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia started bombing rebel-held territories and military bases on Wednesday. They want to protect the government of Yemen's President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi. The USA and Turkey back the intervention, whereas Iran opposes it. Houthi leader Abdel-Malek al-Houthi vowed to fight back.
President Hadi fled to Riyadh on Thursday. According to officials, he planned to continue his journey to Egypt to take part in a two-day Arab League summit at the weekend. His government has been under pressure from Houthi rebels for week. The insurgents are supported by units of the military that have stayed loyal to Ali Abduallah Saleh, the former president, who was toppled in the Arab spring uprising. The Houthis are Shia Muslims, whereas Saleh and Hadi are both Sunnis.
The Houthis control much of the country including the capital Sanaa. In February, they forced Hadi to flee to the southern city of Aden and recently began to close in on that city too.
The White House said that the US is coordinating military and intelligence support with the Saudis but not taking part directly in the raids. Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said he is considering logistical support. Both Saudi Arabia and Egypt indicated their ground troops could take part in an operation in Yemen.
Iran condemned the air strikes, but ruled out any military intervention from its side. The Saudis consider the Houthis proxies for Iran’s Shia regime. Sunni Muslim monarchies in the Gulf back Hadi and his fellow Sunnis.
Because of worries that the escalating conflict could affect crude shipments, the oil price jumped around five percent on Thursday. That was the biggest daily gain in a month. On Friday, however, the price fell again as worries eased.
Sources: Reuters, BBC, Al Jazeera
Lee Kwan Yew 1923 – 2015
Lee Kwan Yew, who served as prime minister of Singapore from 1959 to 1990, died of pneumonia on 23 March. He turned the city he governed into one of Asia’s first “tiger” economies that impressed the world with fast economic growth.
Lee restricted civil liberties and used power in an authoritarian way, focussing on opportunities to develop industries and make them internationally competitive. The success of Singapore is said to have impressed Deng Xiaoping, the Communist leader who opened China to capitalist development. Lee was admired by many regional leaders.
Lee first became prime minister when the British colonial power granted Singapore self-rule in 1959. At the time the per-capita income of the city was $ 550. Singapore gained independence from Britain as part of Malaysia in 1963, and became a sovereign state in 1965. When Lee finally resigned as senior minister from the cabinet, Singapore’s per-capita income had reached $ 50,000. Today, his eldest son Lee Hsien Loong heads the government.
Sources: Wikipedia, FT, FAZ
African elephants in danger of extinction
Africa’s wild elephant population is dwindling. From 2006 to 2013, it shrunk by 15 % to merely 470,000 animals, with matters being worst in Kenya and Tanzania, according to data shared at the African Elephant summit in Kasane, Botswana.
Representatives from about 20 national governments and a similar number of civil-society organisations attended the conference. The participants agreed that poaching, which is driven by ivory demand in Asia, is the core problem. Poachers allegedly get $ 100 for a kilogramme of ivory, which is then smuggled to China, for instance, and sold there for $ 2,100.
In 2013, the first African Elephant Summit had agreed on several measures to stop poaching, including passing and enforcing criminal laws as well as raising awareness among local people. While some participants in the second conference pointed out that no progress has been made at the grassroots level, others appreciated that there was a political will to act.
According to the government of Botswana, the fate of African elephants depends on action by the Chinese government. The Chinese representative in Kasane, however, insisted that his government is contributing to the protection of elephants by enforcing laws domestically and supporting efforts of African governments. Unless effective action is taken fast, the species may become extinct within “one or two decades”, reckons Dune Ives, a researcher with the non-governmental organisation Vulcan.
Sources: taz, Economic Times
Desert flooded in Chile
The government of Chile has declared a state of emergency in parts of the country because of flooding. At least seven persons were said to have died in the Atacama desert, and 19 were listed as missing on Friday morning. This desert is normally among the driest places on earth. Other parts of the country and neighbouring Peru were also hit by unusually heavy rains. The impacts included power black-outs and mudslides.
Sources: Guardian, BBC
Natural disasters affect senior citizens most
When the tsunami hit Japan in 2011, 56 % of the victims were older than 65 years, though their share in the population was only one quarter. When Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, the share of affected persons over 60 was 75 %, in spite of them only making up 16 % of the population. These data were compiled by HelpAge, an international non-governmental organisation, in the context of its recently published Disaster Risk and Age Index. The index is designed to assess the problems and indicate solutions. The NGO insists that the matter is urgent in view of demographic trends in many countries with ageing societies.
HelpAge: Disaster Risk and Age Index.
These items were compiled by Hans Dembowski and Katja Dombrowski on the basis of international media coverage.