europe, human rights, World Politics

Refugees, extremism, and the EU do not justify curbed press freedoms

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It seems that the existence of our free press, liberal social networks, and a largely unrestricted internet maze are the foundations of our societies that we are failing to appreciate. Recent months have seen a draconian crackdown on countless activists and journalists worldwide, most notably throughout Turkey, Poland, and Middle Eastern nations. Without giving citizens the ability to criticise their leaders, only tyranny and inequality will prevail. As governments are placed under mounting pressure to restore public order and dissolve the marked threats of rampant extremism, global populations are at risk of viewing an independent media as a more sporadic luxury.

Headlines in past months have seen the stringent curtailing of speech freedoms in myriad nations. More and more, the rights of citizens to criticise from the interior of controversial regimes are declining.  Turkey’s government, led by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is on a rights rampage, crushing protests over intense media regulation, and closing numerous media outlets which actively speak out against the government. March saw the Committee for the Protection of Journalists declare Turkey as “under siege” in the war against its free press. Further punctuated by the prosecution of a German comedian for his outspoken poem tormenting President Erdoğan, and the government’s new control of multiple private news agencies, perhaps there will soon be no robust check on the Turkish government. The situation is all too similar worldwide, especially in Poland and Egypt. In January, President Andrzej Duda similarly moved a large proportion of the country’s media under state control. The February murder of Reuters journalist Giulio Regeni in Cairo shows that the suppression of our global media is fast mushrooming.

The sad reality is that the above examples are only a small fraction of the assaults carried out against international media. The EU and the UN, two of the most authoritative rights organisations in the world, have declared the right to freedom of speech and the existence of a free press are essential human rights and key pillars of liberal democracies. Denying citizens this liberty should is a crime. Without a free press encircling our societies the significant corruption which riddles too many communities would not have been exposed. Last month’s Panama Papers scandal is just one of the many underhand operations that  came to light thanks to a co-operative, forceful global media. With harsher press clampdowns, similar discoveries will only become fewer and less frequent. Our governments are in real danger of becoming despotic and unaccountable.

The laxity of many global leaders is coming at a hefty price. Many nations may, in just several years, have no real accountability mechanisms in place. Whilst the eternal struggle against extremist militants across the world continues, the European influx of refugees fleeing war-torn states becomes greater, and the European Union becomes closer to tipping point, it is vital that political solutions are, of course, sought. But we absolutely cannot concede press freedoms for increased peace. The shutdown of our media outlets will only increase the toil and the danger.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, portrayed as the queen of Europe and pioneer of one of the world’s greatest democracies, is one leader who has unforgivably succumbed to such pressures. In an attempt to prevent the break up of the European Union, and to save the German export economy, Turkey has been urged to take the brunt of the continuing refugee crisis. Some form of payback is absolutely right. But the accelerated EU membership process of Turkey will threaten the core principles of the Union, including those of our societies’ press freedoms. Accepting Turkey into the EU whilst it fails to comply with several of the 72 membership pre-requisites, is certainly not a master stroke. Coercing Turkey into housing a large proportion of Middle Eastern refugees is all for political advantage. Turkish membership will make the existence of weak political freedoms somewhat acceptable, and Germany, one of the biggest promoters of such democratic principles, is shamefully abandoning its national morals. One of the largest world democracies has now authorised Turkey’s lax political society, which will now allow the replication of weak media regulation in nations elsewhere.

Our leaders’ ploys of taking reduced press freedoms for increased political advantages will not work eventually. Without strong opposition to these moves from global powers, such media suppression will become more commonplace. Our inability to crackdown on blatantly harsh regimes is fostering a rise in authoritarianism as people yearn for some form of immediate stability. One recent report showed that civilians caught up in the Arab Spring would forego democracy in return for increased stability. Whilst vehement authoritarianism will, in several cases, bring stability in the short term, a reduction in the ability to speak out will create internal opposition and unjust dictatorships. The promotion of truly democratic principles is the only way of tackling political problems in Middle Eastern states, as well as nations such as Turkey and Poland.

The most worrying prospect is that such democracy-threatening politics could become the norm in our societies. As citizens look for solutions to political instability, as well as an end to prevalent barbarism – and quite rightly so – we can’t just forget our democratic morals in return for a quick and short-term remedy. The removal of a vibrant, challenging press is criminal, and will result in the eventual explosion of pent up fury, restarting the vicious circle. The only solution is for our Western leaders to demonstrate their solid grip on democratic principles. A free press is essential, but by no means existent in many societies. Without fast-paced, immediate action, global citizens’ voices will become increasingly drowned out, and tyranny will triumph.

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Environment, UK Politics, World Politics

Solidarity will ensure that Britain wards off climate change

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Next week, scores of international leaders will descend upon New York, finally ratifying 2015’s ambitious climate change agreement. Rising temperatures, health-degrading pollution and a fast diminishing stock of fossil fuels are just some of the issues which lie shrouded in the tormenting black clouds of climate change. Last year’s treaty, penned in Paris, saw myriad states commit to a collective effort aimed at reducing carbon emissions worldwide. It is thus evident that for many governments, environmental instability is a serious problem which faces their populations. It does seem, however, that for the British government, – among others – dealing with the consequences of modern practices is far too low down on the agenda.

In past months, an alarming plethora of environmental calamities has emerged. Extraction of fossil fuels and thick pollution in cities may not seem like such disasters at the moment. However, according to many a scientist, the effects will span much longer timescales than many would ever have believed. Only last week, NASA announced that the way the earth spins is taking an unprecedented turn for the worse – sorry – as a result of rapidly melting ice caps. Furthermore, it has been recently forecast that as much as $2.5tn of material assets which are essential to humanity could become destroyed due to rapid climate change. To top that, new surveys have today pinpointed numerous low-lying landscapes which may cease to exist as our oceans continue to swell. This really is no time to be joking. Climate change is fast taking its toll, populations around the world are placed at greater risk, and our race is becoming severely threatened.

It seems that protection from the possible havoc of climate change should be a government responsibility. The United Kingdom has been particularly sluggish in its efforts, and whilst long-term prosperity is key to national success, future generations will profoundly suffer unless the necessity of sustaining our existence is brought to the fore. Without long-term co-operation internationally, as well as the force that comes with EU membership, Britain seems in danger of becoming increasingly oblivious to growing environmental issues.

Casting an eye over Chancellor George Osborne’s latest budget, it is clear that the government’s gusto for tackling climate change is feeble. Whilst the Conservative administration continues its rhetoric, proclaiming that the imminent climate apocalypse is one of the greatest issues facing the nation, strong preventative measures are simply non-existent. In the 2016 budget alone, funding for tackling climate change was minute. Increases in dealing with flood prevention did materialise, but only very moderate investment has been given to renewable energy. Instead, nuclear energy, despite many experts warning that the source is not viable for the long-term, received a boost. Incentives for solar energy installations have been drastically cut, too. Cameron must be blustering. Environmental sustainability is not as high a national priority as it should be, a huge mistake which may inevitably entangle future generations.

This month’s ultimate submission to the Paris agreement will one again reiterate that solidarity is paramount. Surely this will push our officials to choose sustainable options throughout each of our societies, and get our governments working for the common good. What is already a great matter of concern for surrounding nations must now become that of Britain, too. A vote to remain in the European Union ensures that our foreign partners can check upon our sometimes slacking government. Total membership within our vibrant global society and with its collective organisations enables reinforcement of our joint missions.

Brexit will damage our environmental focus. Britain will simply become too relaxed with a vote to leave on 23 June. Perhaps with next week’s full endorsement of the Paris agreement will shed a stronger light on the growing challenges facing our planet. The UK too easily surrenders in the fight to keep our societies safe from the inevitable perils of nature. It’s time that we passionately stood side-by-side with our international companions. Only then can we truly minimise the very real threat which could make our days increasingly gloomy in years to come.

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economy, Industry, UK Politics

Ideologies and EU unease prevented an easy win over British steel

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Entering the third week of the British steel saga, the Conservative government’s indecisiveness over Brexit has begun to show. Tory Business Secretary Sajid Javid, alongside a wealth of government colleagues, has pledged to support a strong British steel sector. But shouldn’t the government have grasped the European Union’s hand in order to nurse the steelworks’ wounds?

The answer is most definitely ‘yes.’ Needless to say, evident Tory laxity over British steel  has proven that many see no merit whatsoever in saving Tata Steel. With strong international imports from the East, along with a heavy government focus on business and services instead, steel girders are no longer used as the supports upon which the UK stands.

The British government’s handling of the ailing Tata Steel has been arguably problematic. Hearing the piercing blare of alarm bells set off by a slowing of European exports, the international community has been moved to protect substantial parts of their economies.

Britain seems to have taken a different route, however. Several days ago, Conservative Party-affiliated MEPs were amongst a select few within the European Parliament to block the imposition of import tariffs on set products entering Europe – especially those products delivered at a cheaper price than those of EU nations’ workforces. The Tories did have their chance to rival the emerging Chinese heavy industries monopoly, but interestingly enough chose not to.

Whilst I don’t doubt that those in government truly want to better the national economy, political tactics and ideology have prevailed just too much. Actions have certainly spoken louder than the words of the Conservatives over the past fortnight have. It is clear that a tactical statement of British EU resentment has markedly backfired. A vote which showed a standing up for hardworking people which the Conservatives insist on assisting, and a pledge to continue with the Tories’ British economic rejuvenation could well have scored the party points in the British steel sector. It seems that the responses of Sajid Javid to events currently battling with him are a cry out for a reformed European Union, or perhaps even a reiteration of the hefty Conservative Eurosceptic presence.

In addition, it is evident that the Conservatives have toed their traditionally laissez-faire line once again. Minimal state ownership has proven to be a key part of Cameron’s administration, as reflected by increasingly privatised housing, amenities and health services. This time, the Tories’ opinions on British manufacturing have similarly been presented loud and clear. But small-scale investment seems to have produced a measly gain this time. After the Business Secretary has adamantly refused to directly fund British steel, it seems that the government will now have to at least ‘co-invest’ in the industry.

Political advantage and European Union protest have sharply backstabbed the Tories. The current steel saga continues. The Conservatives should re-emerge relatively unscathed, somewhat covered over by Cameron’s tax revelations shifting the media’s focus. This time, however, the playing of party tactics has caused Javid problems, and the adoption of strict Conservative ideology has become an evident setback.

Today, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde preached that the UK’s possible exit from the European Union could prove detrimental to the global economy. In relation to British steel, this must provoke a Conservative rethink. Economic solidarity and political compromise are the way forward. Sajid Javid’s team has fatally rejected a perfectly viable EU solution for progressing the repair of Britain’s manufacturing sector. The most unforgiveable part of his oversight is that it may well have been willful. Haunted by the possibilities of Brexit and the party’s strict ideological traditions, David Cameron’s government could have scored easily here with even the most hardcore of Conservatives.

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American Politics, World Politics

The White House should be sweating over the FBI’s liberty abuse

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Over recent months, a worrying increase in organised crimes and devastating shootouts all over the United States has shocked citizens worldwide. As politicians and security officials have become hard pressed for security legislation, a balance of civil liberties and state protection has proven seemingly hard to weigh out.

The past few weeks’ events involving the formidable FBI and tech giant Apple have accentuated this conundrum all the more. No one advocates for such catastrophic terrorist attacks, but ensuring privacy when monitoring criminal suspects is vital. There is no denying that this form of criminal investigation can be valuable when enforcing the law. Serious organised crimes and terrorist atrocities are more frequent than ever, and monitoring the movements of suspect individuals is paramount for the protection of a nation’s citizens.

But there is something gravely worrying about such robust precautions. The guaranteed right to privacy of many civilians is at threat. Apple’s resilience towards the FBI’s coercive demands, however, is reassuring news for many liberals. The company’s decision not to aid US agencies in the recovery of personal data on a suspect’s phone has highlighted the need for clamping down on the state’s data monopoly.

Last week, however, with third-party support, the FBI succeeded in breaking through what used to be Apple’s impenetrable wall of security. The highest criminal investigations agency in the world had defied the passcode of San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook’s iPhone. George Orwell must be turning in his grave. The FBI’s hacking has proven that the US government – and, evidently, many other global governments – can summon the personal details of any citizen, exposing vast details of their private life. Needless to say, technology use is widespread today. The possibility of those either wrongly or correctly accused of criminal activities having their right to privacy taken away from them is worrying likely. Apple dominates a large section of the worldwide technology market, meaning that the number of individuals who could be at threat from such stringent surveillance measures is considerably large. In the wrong hands, these capabilities could prove to be detrimental. Within myriad governments, the unwarranted tracking of citizens may now become more normal.

The United States isn’t the only nation that must be brought into focus when it comes to the liberties versus security debate. Rigorous monitoring has caused discontent across the world. The information provided by whistle-blowers like Edwards Snowden is pivotal, and shows the large extent to which the US government already spies on its citizens. Other national governments the world over have succeeded in using data monitoring as a source of crime deterrence. China’s strict internet monitoring, the United Kingdom’s ‘snoopers charter’ and the arrest of a Facebook executive in Brazil highlight the rigid surveillance measures which have emerged internationally. Individual liberties are fast becoming unduly curbed. Just because many other states’ governments have succeeded in such wide-scaled monitoring does not mean that the United States can operate a similar system which is free of controversial agenda.

Surely it is time that the White House took definitive action, standing up for its traditionally libertarian principles. There is a large potential for such invasive powers to be used wrongly, and for innocent citizens’ privacy to be crushed. In Obama’s last-minute legislative rush, he and his left-wing democrats should spend the last few months of administration over the protection individual freedoms. Attitudes towards civil liberty and national security could, of course, rapidly change under Presidents Clinton, Trump or Cruz. News that President Obama has failed to either condemn or support the probing actions of the FBI shows up his indecisiveness in relation to the matter. In order to protect his nation’s people, the US President must lucidly proclaim his stance, taking radical action.

Ron Wyden, Senator for Oregon, is just one of the high-profile politicians whom have condemned the controversial actions of the FBI. It seems that, despite the fact that there are plausible arguments for such monitoring in our growingly insecure society, the livelihoods and safety of citizens are at risk. The right to privacy is one which is becoming eroded, and one that is in danger of being forgotten. Unless global governments strike the correct balance, citizens may soon have their individuality and privileges taken from them.

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UK Politics, World Politics

Panama Papers: Britain has the power to halt underhand tax havens

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It may be the biggest journalistic jackpot of the decade, but the discovery of the Panama Papers should provoke changes to our societies spanning even longer timescales. Over 11.5m files leaked to German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists amongst myriad other media stations have clarified stark truths of our split societies. Britain, Iceland, Russia and China, alongside more neighbouring countries have had their tycoons, politicians and oligarchs exposed in relation to such unjust tax evasion.

The tax malpractice revelations of Panamanian legal firm Mossack Fonseca and its clients reveals a deep hypocrisy at the top of our society. The setting up of false companies in order to evade income tax is sanctimonious, and the frequent investment of millions in illegal markets is perilous to the international community. This cycle of shady financing has only aided those with links to some of the most hazardous operations in the world, including the funding of organisations linked to North Korea’s questionable nuclear programme.

If anything, the Panama Papers prove that our society is far from just. David Cameron has commanded many of Britain’s poorest to suffer the effects of devastating austerity whilst the most wealthy have continued to inappropriately satisfy their greedy financial appetites. It is unscrupulous that the Prime Minister has advocated for such widespread working class cuts, whilst his relations, Tory party donors, and numerous high earners continue to dodge income levies. In a modern society, the existence of one rule for the rich and another for the ordinary citizen is shameful.

Not only these ravenous Brits who must be flagged up for their blatant wrongdoing. Colleagues of international figures including Russian President Vladimir Putin, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and members of the formidable Chinese politburo have, in past days, had their dignity laid before them. Even Iceland’s Prime Minister Davíð Gunnlaugsson is now facing popular calls for his resignation after exposure of he and his wife’s offshore earnings. The intriguing Scandinavian nation boasts one of the best equality ratings in the world, but it is clear that some public officials must still be rebuked. Whilst not all of the aforementioned politicians have themselves taken part in tax dodging, knowledge of such underhand tactics is nothing short of negligence.

It seems that the global leaders who are launching crackdowns on corruption within their home nations just cannot help themselves. Such a gap between the people and their leaders should not exist in the 21st century. The modern class divide goes beyond occupational status or a mere tax band rating. Our elites should not be torn in such an abominable conflict of interests regarding their scheming and shady financial agenda. A select few international politicians evidently seek to strengthen the pockets of only those amongst their own social class, and not the pockets of majority. So who can citizens trust, watching on as their leaders are embroiled in such unforgiveable hypocrisy? Perhaps the most worrying aspect of these revelations is that our rule of law continues to be diminished. The lawmakers are heavy-handedly exploiting the system and continue to prevent the tying of profound excise loopholes. Our politicians are no longer standing up for the hardworking people, small businesses and social justice they once appeared to.

Such striking kleptocracy is alive and well within our global society. It is now time for the true leaders to put an end to this unfair exploitation. In fact, Britain could very possibly stand the moral high ground. With myriad shell companies having been set up in British colonies, the UK has a bright light to shed on operations within such tax havens. Soon, the Cayman Islands, Panama and the British Virgin Islands could become subject to hard-line reprimands. Only with strong support from Britain may principles of income equality and fairness be reinstated with regard to tax contributions worldwide.

There is one answer to this very real issue. Britain has the chance to assume a leading role in the condemnation of exploitative individuals and the abolishment of such unfair loopholes. Without this support, political corruption and large scale deprivation amongst humanity will prevail. Let’s see our politicians advocate for real social justice and the prevention of big business and the most affluent taking such astonishing advantages. Cameron’s blaming of the widespread use of these schemes on HMRC laxity is a puny scapegoat.

Perhaps I am just a pessimist, but Sunday’s landmark leakage has shown us the disgraceful deceit and dishonesty which is abundant throughout society. It has once again reiterated the evils which continue to prevent our global community from progressing towards equality, justice and prosperity.

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