Clampdowns on the media increased sharply in 2020, the UN’s cultural agency said on Monday, highlighting 21 protests around the world this year in which State security forces have violated journalists’ rights.
In its new report, Safety of Journalists Covering Protests-Preserving Freedom of the Press during Times of Civil Unrest, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural agency (UNESCO) said that between January and June this year, journalists have been increasingly attacked, arrested and even killed.
Launching the report, UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay underscored that the freedom to inform citizens on the causes of unrest and the response from State authorities, are of vital importance for democracies to thrive, reports UN News.
“Journalists have a critical role in reporting and informing audiences on protest movements”, she said.
UNESCO’s findings reveal a “wider upward trend” in the use of unlawful force by police and security forces over the last five years, with more than 30 protests impeded by police and security forces last year alone – double the 2015 number.
The report finds that during this period, global protests have been rooted in concerns over economic injustice, government corruption, declining political freedoms and growing authoritarianism.
It details a wide range of abuses journalists face when covering protests, from harassment, intimidation and beatings, to being shot at with lethal or non-lethal ammunition, detention and abduction.
‘Much greater efforts’ needed
Citing the Committee for the Protection of Journalists, UNESCO said that in some protests, up to 500 separate violations occurred. And during demonstrations linked to the Black Lives Matter movement for greater racial justice, these included the use of rubber bullets and pepper balls, which led to the blinding of several journalists.
Ms. Azoulay pointed out that “for many years, UNESCO has been raising global awareness” to ensure that journalists can do their jobs, “without fear of persecution” and has continued to train “security forces and the judiciary on international norms in freedom of expression”.
However, the UNESCO chief warned the figures in the report “show that much greater efforts are needed”.
Ensuring better protection
The report also contains concrete recommendations for all actors – from media outlets and national authorities to international organizations – to ensure better protections for journalists.
Strengthening training for police and law enforcement on freedom of expression and appropriate behaviour in dealing with the media, is just one of the proposals outlined in the Safety of Journalists.
Others include providing appropriate training and equipment to journalists, including freelancers, sent to cover demonstrations as well as appointing national ombudsmen to hold police accountable for the use of force against journalists during demonstrations.
UNESCO provides technical assistance to Member States, including training for police and security forces on upholding press freedom and freedom of expression.
“We call on the international community and all relevant authorities to ensure that these fundamental rights are upheld”, the UNESCO chief stated.
The number of COVID-19 cases in the United States surpassed 6.5 million on Monday, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University.
The US case count rose to 6,520,234, with the national death toll reaching 194,081 as of Monday, reports Xinhua.
The hardest-hit US state of California reported 759,437 cases. Texas and Florida both recorded more than 660,000 cases, followed by New York with 444,365 cases, the JHU tally showed.
Other states with over 190,000 cases include Georgia, Illinois, Arizona and New Jersey, according to the CSSE.
US COVID-19 cases topped 6 million on August 31, and increased by half a million within two weeks.
By far, the US remains at the top of the global chart in terms of both the caseload and death toll.
The global coronavirus death count soared to 924,127 on Monday, according to JHU.
Data compiled by JHU showed the globally confirmed cases standing at 29,007,970.
Also read: U.S. COVID-19 caseload tops 6 million: JHU
Rescuers have so far recovered 11 bodies after a deadly landslide struck three villages in Nepal's mountains, authorities said.
Rescuers resumed searching on Monday for people missing in the landslide, reports AP.
So far, 11 bodies have been pulled from the debris and at least 15 more are believed to be buried by the landslide, government administrator Baburam Khanal said on the telephone.
The landslide early Sunday swept three villages before stopping at a river.
Continuous rainfall had made it difficult for rescuers on Sunday.
Weather conditions had improved Monday around Sindhupalchowk district, about 120 kilometers east of capital Kathmandu, allowing the rescuers to access the higher grounds, he said.
Landslides are common in mountainous Nepal during the monsoon season that usually ends in September.
Read Also: Landslide kills 6 in Nepal mountains
Israeli and US archaeologists say they have found evidence of an earthquake that occurred about 3,700 years ago.
It is one of the earliest earthquakes recorded at an archeological site, said the University of Haifa (UH) on Sunday, reports Xinhua.
In the study published in PLOS One, researchers from UH and George Washington University in Washington DC examined an ancient Canaanite palace they uncovered in recent years.
The findings at the palace, located in northern Israel, included magnificent halls, wine cellars, dozens of jugs and evidence of glorious feasts and enormous meat consumption.
Also, murals in the palace testified to trade and cultural ties with the Mediterranean islands.
However, the palace, situated on a geological rift, was suddenly destroyed and abandoned, and the new study found that the cause was a strong earthquake which split the palace in halves.
Researchers say the heavy damage caused the residents of ancient Kabri to lose faith in the ruling dynasty, so they abandoned the city, and it has not been settled since.
They found that parts of the palace's walls and the floor fell into a gaping ditch in the ground, next to ruined jugs in the wine cellar and evidence that wine was spilled into the sewer.
Along with the lack of evidence of an attack such as arrows, burn marks and remains of unburied bodies, the team concluded that it was an earthquake that ruined the place.
The researchers also found mud bricks and animal bones in the ditch, strengthening their conclusion even more.
The owner of TikTok has chosen Oracle over Microsoft as its preferred buyer, according to a source familiar with the deal, reports AP
Microsoft on Sunday announced that its bid for TikTok was rejected, a week before President Donald Trump promises to follow through with a plan to ban the Chinese-owned app in the US over spying concerns.
TikTok and the White House declined to comment Sunday. Oracle didn’t return a request for comment but has previously declined comment.
Walmart, which had planned to partner with Microsoft on the acquisition, said Sunday that it “continues to have an interest in a TikTok investment” and is talking about it with ByteDance and other parties.
The Trump administration has threatened to ban TikTok by September 20 and ordered ByteDance to sell its US business, claiming national-security risks due to its Chinese ownership.
Washington worries about user data being funneled to Chinese authorities.
TikTok denies it is a national-security risk and is suing to stop the administration from the threatened ban.
It's not clear if the proposed acquisition will only cover TikTok's US business, and, if so, how it will be split from the rest of TikTok's social media platform, which is popular worldwide. ByteDance also owns a similar video app, Douyin, for the Chinese market.
Any deal must still be reviewed by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, known as CFIUS, a US government group chaired by the Treasury Secretary that studies mergers for national-security reasons. The president can approve or deny a transaction recommended by the panel, though Trump has already voiced support for Oracle as a “great company” that could handle the acquisition.
Microsoft said in a Sunday statement that ByteDance “let us know today they would not be selling TikTok’s US operations to Microsoft”.
Microsoft added that it was “confident our proposal would have been good for TikTok’s users, while protecting national security interests”.
The company said it “would have made significant changes to ensure the service met the highest standards for security, privacy, online safety, and combating disinformation”.
Read Also: CEO of TikTok resigns amid US pressure