Daily Report

Ethiopia charges journalists with terrorism

An Ethiopian court on July 18 charged nine journalists with terrorism and inciting violence under Ethiopia's anti-terrorism law (PDF). The journalists, including six bloggers, were arrested in April and have been prevented from accessing their families or legal counsel since their arrests. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), since the implementation of the anti-terrorism law in 2009, Ethiopian authorities have used it as a tool to limit journalism critical of the government. Human Rights Watch (HRW) has repeatedly called upon the Ethiopian government to repeal the law, alleging that the government stifles the establishment of new media publications.

Bahrain files suit to suspend opposition group

Bahrain's Ministry of Justice on July 20 filed a lawsuit seeking to suspend all activities of the main Shi'ite opposition group for three months. The move comes after leaders of the Al-Wefaq party were charged recently with holding an illegal meeting with a US diplomat from the State Department. The lawsuit, however, does not mention the meeting, but rather seeks to suspend the party for violating quorum and transparency requirements. Al-Wefaq leader Ali Salman said his party plans to challenge the move.

Militants attack Egypt border post from Libya

Gunmen killed at least 20 Egyptian military border guards near the frontier with Libya in a July 19 raid. An army spokesman said the attackers were "terrorists"—the term Egyptian authorities use for Islamist militants. A weapons storage facility was reportedly blown up by a rocket-propelled grenade during the attack, which took place in Wadi al-Gadid governorate, bordering Libya and Sudan. At least two militants were reportedly killed in the clash. (Radio Australia, July 20) The attack comes three weeks after Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi flew to Algiers for a meeting with his Algerian counterpart Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Commentators in the region say the meeting was intended to coordinate support for Libyan Gen. Khalifa Haftar, who has launched a unilateral offensive on Islamist militants in Benghazi. (Middle East Monitor, June 27)

Nicaragua: inter-oceanic canal route approved

Nicaragua's Commission for the Development of the Grand Canal on July 7 approved a route for the proposed inter-oceanic canal through the Central American country. The waterway, to be built by Chinese company HKND, is slated to run from the Río Punta Gorda (South Atlantic Autonomous Region) on the Caribbean Coast to Brito (Rivas department) on the Pacific coast—a route more than three times as long as the 48-mile Panama Canal. The Commission said the canal will be operational by 2020, but questions have been raised on how the Hong Kong-based company plans to finance the project, estimated at $50 billion—nearly four times greater than Nicaragua's national economy. The canal is to be privately owned and operated. Ecologists have raised concerns about impacts on Lake Nicaragua (also known as Cocibolca), Central America's largest lake and an important fresh-water source for the country. There are fears the the water used by the canal's locks could seriously deplete the lake. The Río San Juan, which feeds the lake and forms the border with Costa Rica, would be dammed to feed the locks. Costa Rica has formally demanded the right to review environmental impact studies for the project before work begins. The Rama-Kriol indigenous people, whose territories in the Punta Gorda river basin would be impacted, are demanding to be consulted on the project. (La Prensa, Nicaragua, July 17; Tico Times, Costa Rica; July 15; Nicaragua Dispatch, ReutersEl Financiero, Mexico, July 8)

Bolivia: 'dirty war' fears as Evo seeks third term

Bolivia's President Evo Morales will run for re-election in October, the ruling Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) announced July 14. But the opposition accuses Morales of defying the constitution, which allows a president two consecutive terms in office. Morales was first elected in 2006 and then again in 2009. The term limit was adopted in 2009, with the constitutional reform overseen by Morales himself. In 2013 the Plurinational Constitutional Trbunal (TCP) ruled that his first term should not be counted as it preceded the new constitution. Morales is the clear frontrunner, polling at about 44%. His nearest rival, cement tycoon Samuel Doria Medina of the Unidad Demócrata (UD), trails by almost 30 points. Morales, anticipating a contentious campaign, appealed to MAS supporters for restraint, saying "I ask you all not to enter into a dirty war." (La Razón, La Paz, July 17; Los Tiempos, Cochabamba, July 16; EFE, July 15; The Guardian, July 14)

Gaza and Aleppo: fearful symmetry

Residents of Aleppo, the northern Syrian city under siege and bombardment by regime forces for months now, held a candle-light ceremony July 14 expressing their support for the residents of Gaza, now under Israeli bombardment and invasion. (PMOI, July 15) The Assad regime's "barrel bombs"—oil drums packed with hundreds of kilograms of explosives and metal fragments—have killed thousands in Aleppo and other rebel-held areas of Syria this year. Fears of the city's fall to regime forces have risen after the army made gains in the last two weeks, taking the Sheikh Naijar industrial zone in the northeast—seen by some as a "turning point" in the war. (DW, July 15) The same claims were heard when Homs was surrendered to regime forces two months ago.

Ukraine air disaster inter-imperial football (already)

President Obama in his statement on the downing of the Malaysia Airlines passenger plane in Ukraine emphasized that it was "shot down by a surface-to-air missile that was launched from an area that is controlled by Russian-backed separatists inside of Ukraine." He added that "we know that these separatists have received a steady flow of support from Russia." Vladimir Putin, of course, blamed Ukraine for the incident, saying: "Without doubt the government of the territory on which it happened bears responsibility for this frightening tragedy." Of course he was referring to Kiev's military offensive against the rebels, but Business Insider wryly notes that placing the blame on "the government of the territory" where the disaster occurred "technically points the finger at the rebels themselves, who have proclaimed the area 'The People's Republic of Donetsk.'"

China: Uighurs defy Ramadan crackdown

Authorities in China's Xinjiang region are stepping up security measures in the wake of a stabbing attack that left six Han Chinese farmers dead last week. Security forces shot dead a Uighur man and captured five Uighur suspects following the July 9 incident at Village No. 7 in Uchturpan (Chinese: Wushi) county, Aksu prefecture. (RFA, July 17) Chinese authorities have reportedly ordered mosques in  in regional capital Urumqi to use the holy month of Ramadan to publicize Beijing's "anti-terrorism" campaign. Ramadan this year precedes the fifth anniversary of deadly ethnic riots that left nearly 200 dead in 2009. Dilxat Raxit of the Germany-based World Uyghur Congress (WUC) said: "Between 10 and 18 security personnel have been stationed inside every mosque in the city for surveillance. Also, all mosques are being required to ensure that the surveillance cameras installed there are in normal working order." (RFA, June 28) Authorities have barred government employees and school children from fasting for Ramadan, in what the WUC says is now an annual attempt at systematically erasing the region's Islamic identity. (Al Jazeera, July 5)

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