India's top court to consider cases against block on BBC documentary on Modi
India's top court to consider cases against block on BBC documentary on Modi/node/2241421/world
India's top court to consider cases against block on BBC documentary on Modi
People watch the BBC documentary "India: The Modi Question", on a screen installed at the Marine Drive junction under the direction of the district Congress committee, in Kochi, India, on January 24, 2023. (AFP)
India's top court to consider cases against block on BBC documentary on Modi
At least 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed in 2002 riots in India's Gujarat state
The documentary alleges Modi had ordered police to turn a blind eye while he was CM
Updated 30 January 2023
NEW DELHI: India's Supreme Court will consider petitions next week against a government order blocking the sharing of clips of a BBC documentary that questioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi's leadership during riots in 2002 in the western state of Gujarat.
The government has dismissed as a biased "propaganda piece" the film released last week, titled "India: The Modi Question", and blocked the sharing of any clips from it on social media.
The Supreme Court will take up the petitions next week, Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud said in court on Monday.
A New Delhi-based lawyer, M L Sharma, opposed the government's move in one of the petitions to the Supreme Court.
A separate petition by lawyer Prashant Bhushan, journalist N. Ram and opposition politician Mahua Moitra focused on the order to take down social media links to the documentary.
In a Twitter comment on the second petition, Law Minister Kiren Rijiju said, "This is how they waste the precious time of the Honourable Supreme Court, where thousands of common citizens are waiting and seeking dates for justice."
Modi, who aims for a third term in elections next year, was chief minister of Gujarat in February 2002, when a suspected Muslim mob set fire to a train carrying Hindu pilgrims.
The incident sparked one of the worst outbreaks of religious bloodshed in independent India.
In reprisal attacks across the state at least 1,000 people were killed, most of them Muslim, as crowds roamed the streets for days, targeting the religious minority. But activists put the toll at more than twice that, at about 2,500.
Modi has denied accusations that he did not do enough to stop the riots. He was exonerated in 2012 following an inquiry overseen by the Supreme Court and a petition questioning his exoneration was dismissed last year.
The BBC has said the documentary was "rigorously researched" and involved a wide range of voices and opinions, including responses from people in Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.
Voter turnout ticks up in Cuba legislative elections
Latest provisional figures show voter turnout stood at 70.33 percent
Modest increase from the 68.5 percent who voted in last November’s municipal elections
Updated 6 sec ago
HAVANA: Cuba’s government managed to mobilize voters on Sunday for National Assembly elections, the results of which were a foregone conclusion, as it pushed back against a recent abstentionist trend in the communist-ruled nation. As many as eight million eligible voters selected from the 470 candidates on the ballot — 263 women and 207 men — are vying for the 470 seats in the congress. But what was really in play was the number of Cubans refusing to vote. The opposition had called on citizens to abstain, with one opposition Twitter account branding the vote a farce. Voting is not obligatory and abstention has risen steadily in recent years. On Sunday the nation’s 23,648 polling stations closed at 7:00 p.m. (2300 GMT), an hour later than initially announced by authorities. According to the latest provisional figures released by the National Election Council, as of 5:00 p.m. turnout stood at 70.33 percent. That marked a modest increase from the 68.5 percent who voted in last November’s municipal elections, the lowest turnout since the island’s current electoral system was set up in 1976. Last September about 74 percent of eligible Cubans voted in a referendum on a new family code, down from the 90 percent turnout in the 2019 referendum on a new constitution. Cuba’s communist government does not allow opposition, so most parliamentary candidates are members of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC). Candidates still must receive 50 percent of votes to be elected. Voters had two choices: they could tick the names of any number of individual candidates, or they could select the “vote for all” option. “I voted for the unified vote because, despite the needs, the difficulties that this country can have, I could not imagine” abstaining, Carlos Diego Herrera, a 54-year-old blacksmith in Havana, said. He said abstaining would be like voting “for those that want to crush us, the Yankees.” Washington has imposed sanctions on the island nation since 1962, three years after the communist revolution that saw Fidel Castro take power after overthrowing US-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista. Student Rachel Vega, 19, also said she voted for all candidates, considering it “a step forward right now” that would “improve the situation in the country.” President Miguel Diaz-Canel is among the candidates, as is his predecessor, 91-year-old Raul Castro. “With the united vote we defend the unity of the country, the unity of the revolution, our future, our socialist constitution,” said Diaz-Canel, 62, after voting in Santa Clara, 175 miles (280 kilometers) southeast of Havana. The opposition scoffed at the turnout figures, with dissident Manuel Cuesta Morua of the Council for the Democratic Transition in Cuba warning about “the government’s electoral mathematics.” “At 9am it reports that 18.2 percent of the electorate has voted. At 11am it says 41.66 percent — that is, in less than two hours the turnout increased by 23.46” points, he said on Twitter. “Impossible!!! The polling stations are empty.” Final figures will be released Monday.
Saudi Arabia’s ‘vision and generosity are very well-suited’ to WHO’s work on global health issues, says WHO Foundation CEO
Anil Soni says Middle East’s humanitarian and health crises need both ‘immediate assistance and long-term solutions’
Praises aid agency KSrelief’s ‘incredible model’ and Saudi Vision 2030’s focus on nonprofit efforts and philanthropy
Updated 27 March 2023
LONDON: The WHO Foundation was set up in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic to marshal new resources from philanthropists, foundations, businesses, and individuals to support the World Health Organization’s mission.
Both WHO, which is a specialized agency of the UN, and the WHO Foundation are based in Geneva but the latter is a non-profit, grant-making body that is legally independent from WHO.
Anil Soni joined as CEO with a 20-year track record of improving healthcare in poorer countries and a goal to raise $1 billion a year by 2023. He told Arab News, in a written interview, how his foundation supports and complements WHO’s efforts while respecting its intergovernmental nature.
Arab News: Can you describe how the WHO Foundation arranges support from donors and how the money is spent by WHO?
Anil Soni: The WHO Foundation’s purpose is to be a bridge between the lifesaving and vital work of WHO and the various communities that can help power that work through their engagement, partnership and of course, generosity.
We are raising resources from multiple partners from the private sector and beyond to help WHO deliver lifesaving medicines and supplies to people in need.
World challenges such as the Turkiye-Syria earthquakes, the food crisis in the Sahel and the Horn of Africa and the conflict in Ukraine are great examples of where we are facing crises that affect all of us and have to come together.
Such adversities cannot be tackled by any single sector alone. WHO is part of several international organizations of the United Nations, but the UN and the governments are not enough. We have to make sure we are collaborating with individuals and businesses too.
All contributions matter, even small ones, as these add up to enabling life-changing initiatives. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, we had a campaign called “Go Give One.” Five dollars bought a vaccine, the same amount of money that could go into buying a cup of coffee. Businesses and philanthropists were donating millions of dollars, and that’s important, but every single contribution counts.
In terms of how we mobilize the money, we do it in several ways. We are brokering catalytic, transformative ways of engaging with philanthropists and businesses looking for opportunities to contribute to change and be part of the solution.
In the case of the earthquakes that affected millions and led to more than 50,000 life losses (the biggest death toll in over a decade since the Haiti earthquake), WHO continues to procure and quickly deliver lifesaving tools in Turkiye and Syria.
One of our closest partners is Spotify. Spotify created an opportunity for its listeners to contribute to the relief efforts in Turkiye and Syria by helping direct individuals (Spotify users) to our donation webpage.
Each donation directly supports relief efforts for those affected, including mental health services, physical rehabilitation, medicines, and other tools or commodities needed to reduce the risk or respond to communicable diseases from poor access to hygiene, clean water, and health services.
Q: Aid agencies have been criticized over the perception of unfair aid distribution and assistance in earthquake-hit areas, particularly in relation to Syria and its different areas of control. How can aid in this complicated context be made more equitable?
A: Often, people at risk and in need are in environments that are the subject of intense political debate or literally in the crossfire of conflict. This is one of the reasons why WHO’s work is so important, as it operates everywhere. It is a UN agency that is itself a collaboration between member states. Hence, all the world’s governments participate in the operations and governance of WHO.
501,000 People who died from tuberculosis in Africa in 2021.
43,000 Excess deaths caused by hunger and poor health in Somalia in 2022.
57,300 Deaths in Turkiye and Syria caused by Feb. 6 earthquakes.
Furthermore, WHO’s emergency teams are in all regions of the world, so they continue to operate in Syria through years of conflict and are one of the few that have done so. It is crucial not to be biased against people’s needs because of the nature of a political situation or conflict. Quite the opposite, this is about healthcare, delivering medical services, and doctors whose job is not to deal with politics but to ensure people in need receive adequate healthcare.
I was really inspired by Dr. Tedros (Adhanom Ghebreyesus), the head of WHO, who visited Syria last month. He was the first UN principal to enter northwest Syria in over a decade because of the conflict. In the first hours after the earthquakes, WHO distributed 183 metric tons of supplies to more than 200 health facilities inside northwest Syria from partner warehouses in Azaz and Idlib.
Following this, WHO delivered 297 metric tons of emergency supplies and essential medicines to earthquake-affected areas of the country, allowing 3,705,000 treatments, including ones for trauma management, diabetes, and pneumonia.
Q. What are the main healthcare challenges facing the Middle East and North Africa region? How can mobilizing additional funding for WHO address these challenges? Can this go beyond monetary assistance to address the structural issues behind health inequality?
A: That’s the aspiration because otherwise, we will continue to face these emergencies and inequitable needs. The MENA region is striking at the moment because it is home to a number of simultaneous humanitarian and health crises that need both immediate assistance and long-term solutions.
Events such as the earthquakes in Turkiye and Syria, the conflict in Syria and the cholera outbreaks in Lebanon and Syria are acute and products of climate change or long-term dynamics that require sustained response and commitment.
The region now more than ever is uniquely positioned to support with its burgeoning economic prosperity among residents and the public and private sectors. It is vital to raise the necessary resources and awareness of how every single contribution plays a huge role in tackling humanitarian crises, which is what we do at the WHO Foundation.
But equally important is the need to address the structural issues and the systemic reasons behind inequalities and fully leverage the resources of some of our partners. For example, we’re not just looking to our partners as a source of capital. We are also looking into how they can help us mobilize humanitarian efforts through their platform, talent, ability and own supplies.
I mentioned Spotify earlier. They helped us engage millions of listeners to gather resources to build up local health systems and become better prepared for emergency response.
So, part of what we’re trying to do in terms of raising those resources and brokering these partnerships is not just responding in the moment of an emergency but also ensuring that the underlying health systems are being built up, that there are community healthcare workers and adequate supplies.
We think about long-term financing and building systems strong enough to allow us to be agile in our response to an emergency or even help predict future crises (that is, potential disease outbreaks).
Q. How is the WHO Foundation helping to improve global preparedness? Does this apply merely to COVID-19 and readiness for future pandemics or does it include other emerging health threats (environmental, nutritional, etc.)? How can states like Saudi Arabia prepare?
A: WHO and the WHO Foundation work collaboratively and proactively to improve preparedness. For example, we are setting up emergency hubs in Kenya, Senegal, and South Africa to bolster health security across the African continent. This helps ensure lifesaving medical supplies and equipment are shipped within 24-48 hours of the declaration of an emergency, reducing deployment time by up to 60 days.
These regional emergency hubs work closely and cooperatively with governments for a joint emergency response, prepositioning of medical supplies and equipment, training facilities, and infectious diseases monitoring. But these emergency hubs are not limited to tending to diseases. They also help boost living quality, such as ensuring a continued supply of clean water to avoid risks of waterborne diseases like cholera.
WHO is always looking ahead, whether that’s analyzing trends in climate change or forecasting geopolitical outcomes, to anticipate better where our support will be most needed. We also work with governments and health leaders to help them navigate health crises their nation may have yet to experience.
Regarding Saudi Arabia, the vision and generosity of the Kingdom and its close collaboration with businesses and its people are very well-suited to this. As I understand it, particularly in the context of Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia is addressing how it can ensure that they recognize the interconnectedness between our well-being, the well-being of others, and the well-being of our neighbors. There’s a term in South Africa called “Ubuntu,” which means “I am because you are.”
It essentially recognizes interconnectedness and that the only way I will prosper is if I’m making sure that I’m being thoughtful about your needs because we depend on each other. I think this resonates with Saudi Arabia’s leadership role in the region and that supporting countries and communities inside and outside the Kingdom’s borders is essential to the welfare of the people in Saudi Arabia itself.
Q. What is your opinion of Saudi Vision 2030’s Health Sector Transformation Program? Do you believe its focus on equitable and accessible health care coincides with the WHO Foundation’s own mission and values?
A: Similarly to Saudi Arabia’s Health Sector Transformation Program, the WHO Foundation believes in equitable and accessible healthcare. To speak more broadly in terms of the Vision 2030, there’s also a focus on nonprofit efforts and a culture of strategic philanthropy.
Even though there’s the government’s leadership, the rest of the nation is encouraged to contribute, including businesses and individuals, to addressing national challenges and fostering development. This idea of everyone playing a role in achieving goals is consistent with our mission at the WHO Foundation.
We’ve had to react to so much these last years, such as a pandemic that much of the world didn’t predict, the effects of climate change even though it’s been brewing over time, and natural disasters that have periodicity and history.
If we look back, earthquakes and tsunamis have caused so much damage over the decades, and the question is, are we preparing for such catastrophic events? If all we’re doing is reacting and not preparing, the effects will be greater, and the loss will be unnecessary.
I say all of that because, when a government like Saudi Arabia works backward all the way from 2030, proactively and not just reactively, it sets an important lesson for all of us and demonstrates how much progress we could make by simply being prepared.
Q. What is the WHO Foundation’s assessment of Saudi Arabia’s role in supporting nations in the wider region, including the medical interventions of KSrelief? Does the Kingdom have a greater role to play in future humanitarian and disaster responses?
A: KSrelief is an incredible model, and we’re learning a lot from the existing collaboration between KSrelief, WHO and other international humanitarian partners. The generosity of KSrelief has been tremendous, but it’s not just about the number of dollars; they’re also thoughtful about the quality of aid and the policy frameworks necessary to ensure the positive impact intended. We want to replicate and build from this type of partnership and engagement.
Q. In what ways does the WHO Foundation want to mobilize greater private capital and public-private partnerships to advance the mission of WHO in Saudi Arabia and the wider region?
A: A part of what we are trying to do at the WHO Foundation is help stakeholders in Saudi and other countries in the region understand the critical role WHO plays. Though it was prominent throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, WHO is not just about responding to the pandemic; it responds to various emergencies; it’s operating in settings other agencies are not; it’s thinking and preparing for future emergencies.
Last month, WHO released its Global Health Emergency Appeals, enhancing preparedness and response to 54 ongoing health emergencies. And, of course, there’s all the normative work of WHO, the degree to which it acts as the world’s FDA, CDC, and NIH.
We hope that by raising awareness and amplifying the understanding of WHO and its initiatives, we can engage the tremendous generosity of the region and mobilize regional stakeholders to help WHO achieve its humanitarian goals.
Philanthropy is a key tenet of Islam. What role can zakat play in the WHO Foundation’s fundraising work in the region?
A: I’ve been so blessed to have had the opportunity of getting to know different communities and faiths around the world and be inspired by different ones. Zakat is very inspiring and something I practice in my life. Even though I am a Hindu and an American, I allocate 5 percent of my income after tax to charity and to civic causes every year.
While zakat and sadaqah are particular elements of the Muslim faith, there’s great consistency between zakat and sadaqah and tithing. This culture of giving presents a tremendous opportunity to fund gaps in global humanitarian health crises and ensure help is directed to where it is most needed. I think the tradition of giving in faiths can inspire greater philanthropy, generosity, and collaboration in the future.
Ukraine demands emergency UN meeting over Putin nuclear plan
Putin said his plan was triggered by a UK decision this past week to provide Ukraine with armor-piercing rounds containing depleted uranium
Updated 26 March 2023
KYIV: Ukraine’s government on Sunday called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to “counter the Kremlin’s nuclear blackmail” after Russian President Vladimir Putin revealed plans to station tactical atomic weapons in Belarus.
One Ukrainian official said Russia “took Belarus as a nuclear hostage.”
Further heightening tensions, an explosion deep inside Russia wounded three people Sunday. Russian authorities blamed a Ukrainian drone for the blast, which damaged residential buildings in a town just 175 kilometers (110 miles) south of Moscow.
Russia has said the plan to station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus comes in response to the West’s increasing military support for Ukraine. Putin announced the plan in a TV interview that aired Saturday, saying it was triggered by a UK decision this past week to provide Ukraine with armor-piercing rounds containing depleted uranium.
Putin argued that by deploying its tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, Russia was following the lead of the United States. He noted that Washington has nuclear weapons based in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkiye.
“We are doing what they have been doing for decades, stationing them in certain allied countries, preparing the launch platforms and training their crews,” he said.
Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry condemned the move in a statement Sunday and demanded an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council.
“Ukraine expects effective action to counter the Kremlin’s nuclear blackmail by the UK, China, the US and France,” the statement read, saying these countries “have a special responsibility” regarding nuclear aggression.
“The world must be united against someone who endangers the future of human civilization,” the statement said.
Ukraine has not commented on Sunday’s explosion inside Russia. It left a crater about 15 meters (50 feet) in diameter and five meters deep (16 feet), according to media reports.
Russian state-run news agency Tass reported authorities identified the drone as a Ukrainian Tu-141. The Soviet-era drone was reintroduced in Ukraine in 2014, and has a range of about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles).
The explosion took place in the town of Kireyevsk in the Tula region, about 300 kilometers (180 miles) from the border with Ukraine. Russia’s Defense Ministry said the drone crashed after an electronic jamming system disabled its navigation.
Similar drone attacks have been common during the war, although Ukraine hardly ever acknowledges responsibility. On Monday, Russia said Ukrainian drones attacked civilian facilities in the town of Dzhankoi in Russia-annexed Crimea. Ukraine’s military said several Russian cruise missiles were destroyed, but did not specifically claim responsibility.
In December, the Russian military reported several Ukrainian drone attacks on long-range bomber bases deep inside Russia. The Russian Defense Ministry said the drones were shot down, but acknowledged that their debris damaged some aircraft and killed several servicemen.
Also, Russian authorities have reported attacks by small drones in the Bryansk and Belgorod regions on the border with Ukraine.
On Saturday, Putin argued that Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has long asked to have nuclear weapons in his country again to counter NATO. Belarus shares borders with three NATO members — Latvia, Lithuania and Poland — and Russia used Belarusian territory as a staging ground to send troops into neighboring Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022.
Both Lukashenko’s support of the war and Putin’s plans to station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus has been denounced by the Belarusian opposition.
Oleksiy Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, tweeted Sunday that Putin’s announcement was “a step toward internal destabilization” of Belarus that maximized “the level of negative perception and public rejection” of Russia and Putin in Belarusian society. The Kremlin, Danilov added, “took Belarus as a nuclear hostage.”
Tactical nuclear weapons are intended for use on the battlefield and have a short range and a low yield compared with much more powerful nuclear warheads fitted to long-range missiles. Russia plans to maintain control over the ones it sends to Belarus, and construction of storage facilities for them will be completed by July 1, Putin said.
Russia has stored its tactical nuclear weapons at dedicated depots on its territory, and moving part of the arsenal to a storage facility in Belarus would up the ante in the Ukrainian conflict by placing them closer to Russian aircraft and missiles already stationed there.
The US said it would “monitor the implications” of Putin’s announcement. So far, Washington hasn’t seen “any indications Russia is preparing to use a nuclear weapon,” National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said.
In Germany, the foreign ministry called it a “further attempt at nuclear intimidation,” German news agency dpa reported late Saturday. The ministry went on to say that “the comparison drawn by President Putin to NATO’s nuclear participation is misleading and cannot be used to justify the step announced by Russia.”
French PM offers to meet opposition, unions amid pension crisis
PM pledged not to use constitutional powers to adopt legislation without a vote again except for on budget bills
Updated 26 March 2023
PARIS: French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne plans to meet with opposition leaders and trade unions in the hope of ending weeks of protests against a new pension law, her office said on Sunday.
Demonstrations against the pension reform, which will raise the retirement age by two years, turned violent after the government pushed through the legislation this month without a final parliamentary vote.
President Emmanuel Macron has ruled out scrapping or delaying the legislation, tasking his prime minister with finding fresh support in parliament after the government failed to find enough votes for the bill.
Borne will meet with political party leaders and also aims to restart dialogue with unions over labor issues, her office said, without mentioning the pension bill.
The prime minister added in an interview with AFP that the meetings with opposition and union leaders would take place in the week starting April 3.
She also pledged not to use constitutional powers to adopt legislation without a vote again except for on budget bills, AFP said.
It is unclear if the government’s attempt to draw a line under the pension crisis will calm a majority of the public hostile to the reform and demonstrators exasperated by the adoption of the legislation without a final vote.
Unions have scheduled a 10th day of nationwide protests against the pension law on Tuesday, after a previous day of action last Thursday saw the most violent clashes yet with police.
The head of the CFDT union, Laurent Berger, last week proposed that Macron pause the law for six months to seek a possible compromise.
Russia’s war on Ukraine latest: Ukraine slams Putin’s nuclear weapons plan
Russia’s Putin announced on Saturday Moscow’s plan to station nuclear weapons in Belarus
Putin’s announcement renews Russia’s hostility toward the west as Germany, NATO condemn decision
Updated 26 March 2023
A top security adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Russian plans to station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus would destabilize that country, which he said had been taken “hostage” by Moscow. Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the decision on Saturday, sending a warning to NATO over its military support for Ukraine and escalating a standoff with the West.
DIPLOMACY AND SANCTIONS
* Russia and China are not creating a military alliance and the cooperation between their armed forces is “transparent,” Putin said in comments broadcast on Sunday, days after hosting Chinese leader Xi Jinping in the Kremlin.
* Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Saturday he would push for fair peace in the war in Ukraine that included “territorial integrity,” when he visits China next week.
* Putin held a phone call with his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan, the Kremlin said. Erdogan thanked Putin for his “positive attitude” in extending the Black Sea grain deal, the Kremlin said in a statement.
* Ukrainian forces have managed to blunt Russia’s offensive in and around the embattled eastern city of Bakhmut, where the situation is stabilising, commander in chief General Valery Zaluzhniy said on Saturday. Separately, Britain’s defense ministry said the months-long Russian assault on the city had stalled, mainly as a result of heavy troop losses.
* The Ukraine General Staff said on Sunday Ukrainian forces had repelled 85 Russian attacks over the past 24 hours in several parts of the eastern front, including the Bakhmut area.
* UN nuclear watchdog chief Rafael Grossi said on Saturday he will visit the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine next week to assess the serious situation there.
* More than 5,000 former criminals have been pardoned after finishing their contracts to fight in Russia’s Wagner mercenary group against Ukraine, the founder of Wagner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, said on Saturday.
*Reuters could not independently verify battlefield reports.