Bangladesh 152nd out of 180 countries in World Press Freedom Index



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Photo: Barta24

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Bangladesh has dropped 10 spots to rank 162nd out of 180 countries in terms of press freedom, according to the Reporters Without Borders, also known as Reporters sans frontières or RSF.

The ranking, included in the organisation’s 2022 World Press Freedom Index report and released on Tuesday, put Bangladesh in the category of countries with a “very serious” situation. The other categories are “good”, “satisfactory”, “problematic” and “difficult”.

In the 2021 index, Bangladesh’s position dropped by one notch to 152nd. Bangladesh was first included in the index in 2013, when it ranked 144th out of 180 countries.

The annual press freedom index, which has been compiled in some form since 2002, is based on pooling responses to a questionnaire sent out by Reporters Without Borders to media professionals, lawyers and sociologists.

RSF said it used a new methodology for the latest index that defines press freedom as “the effective possibility for journalists, as individuals and as groups, to select, produce and disseminate news and information in the public interest, independently from political, economic, legal and social interference, and without threats to their physical and mental safety.” 

In the country profile of Bangladesh, the organisation criticised the ruling Awami League, saying members and supporters of the party “often subject the journalists they dislike to targeted physical violence, while judicial harassment campaigns are carried out to silence certain journalists or force media outlets to close”.

“Most of the leading private media are owned by a handful of big businessmen who have emerged during Bangladesh’s economic boom. They see their media outlets as tools for exercising influence and maximising profits, and they prioritise good relations with the government over the safeguard of editorial independence. As a result, it is very often government representatives who decide who will be the guests on the evening talk shows on the privately owned TV channels.

“The mainstream media never address the issue of religious minorities, although they number 10 million in Bangladesh. In the past decade, radical Islamist groups have waged extremely violent campaigns that have led to journalists being murdered. These groups now use social media to track down journalists who defend secularism, the right to alternative opinions or religious freedom,” RSF said in the profile.

“Exposed to police violence, attacks by political activists and murders orchestrated by Jihadist or criminal organisations, Bangladeshi journalists are all the more vulnerable because this violence goes unpunished,” it said, criticising the government over the Digital Security Act, which is “often used to keep journalists and bloggers in prison, in appalling conditions”.

“And in a profession that is still predominantly male, women journalists are exposed to a deeply rooted culture of harassment and are subjected to online hate campaigns when they try to defend their rights.”

Among the countries in South Asia, Afghanistan ranks 156th, one spot behind Pakistan. India ranks 150th and Sri Lanka 146th. 

Globally, the 20th World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders reveals a twofold increase in polarisation amplified by information chaos – that is, media polarisation fuelling divisions within countries, as well as polarisation between countries at the international level. The invasion of Ukraine (106th) by Russia (155th) at the end of February reflects this process, as the physical conflict was preceded by a propaganda war, RSF said.

The world’s 10 worst countries for press freedom include Myanmar (176th), where the February 2021 coup d’état set press freedom back by 10 years, as well as China, Turkmenistan (177th), Iran (178th), Eritrea (179th) and North Korea (180th).

The BRICS Summit Begins



News Desk, Barta24.com
The BRICS Summit Begins, Photo collected.

The BRICS Summit Begins, Photo collected.

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The leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa meet virtually today (June 23)  for a summit of BRICS nations. As well as a chance to discuss economic strategies outside a Western-dominated system, the meeting once again shows that, although Russia is isolated from the West, for the rest of the world it is still very much open for business.

According to media repots, Russian President Vladimir Putin joins the gathering today at a time when his country has become China’s largest crude oil supplier—a position usually enjoyed by Saudi Arabia. He will hold talks with a group of leaders who have so far tempered any criticism of the war in Ukraine.

Indeed Xi Jinping, in his address to the BRICS Business forum on Wednesday, appeared to lay the blame on Ukraine for Russia’s invasion, calling it a “wake up call” and a reminder that “attempts to expand military alliances and seek one’s own security at the expense of others will only land oneself in a security dilemma.”

Addressing the same forum, Putin was bullish on the economic opportunities presented by the group, touting negotiations on opening Indian chain stores in Russia, increasing Chinese industrial imports and “reorienting trade flows” to BRICS nations. According to Putin, trade with the group increased by 38 percent in the first quarter of 2022.

He added that the BRICS group could soon go a step further by challenging the U.S. dollar, creating its own international reserve currency based on the “basket of currencies of our countries.”

For India, also a member of the Quad—along with Australia, Japan, and the United States—it faces a challenge to keep up its balancing act between East and West.

“India lives in a rough neighborhood and has been able to stick by its non-aligned policy to ensure its strategic autonomy by essentially engaging with everybody, and they’ve done a pretty good job of that,” Derek Grossman, a senior defense analyst at the RAND Corporation, told Foreign Policy (FP). “But as great power competition continues to heat up, not just between the U.S. and China, but now the U.S. and Russia, it’s going to be increasingly difficult and delicate to maintain that balance.”

Indian officials aren’t naïve about their position, and are reportedly working to block any attempts to insert anti-U.S. messaging into the BRICS joint statement as well as slow any attempts to expand the grouping.

That the BRICS grouping is not known as a particularly effective combination may work in India’s favor. “I think that India can make a gamble, which I think is pretty safe, and it can essentially, pledge full support for everything BRICS is doing to show that it’s a loyal member of the group, while at the same time betting on the strong likelihood that BRICS won’t be able to move the needle forward on a lot of the issues and plans that are discussed,” said Michael Kugelman, an Asia expert at the Wilson Center and author of FP’s South Asia Brief. “That would then spare India from having to make awkward decisions about how far to go and pursue policies within BRICS that could put it at odds with the West.”

India is in high demand in a busy few weeks for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He travels to Germany over the weekend to attend the G-7 summit and in July he joins another new grouping (and acronym) I2-U2, with the leaders of Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States.

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The Quake was Afghanistan’s Deadliest in Two Decades



News Desk, Barta24.com
The Quake was Afghanistan’s Deadliest in Two Decades

The Quake was Afghanistan’s Deadliest in Two Decades

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Villagers rushed to bury the dead Thursday and dug by hand through the rubble of their homes in search of survivors of a powerful earthquake in eastern Afghanistan that killed at least 1,000 people. The Taliban and the international community that fled their takeover struggled to bring help to the disaster’s victims.

Under a leaden sky in Paktika province, which was the epicenter of Wednesday’s magnitude 6 earthquake, men dug a line of graves in one village, as they tried to lay the dead to rest quickly in line with Muslim tradition. In one courtyard, bodies lay wrapped in plastic to protect them from the rains that are hampering relief efforts for the living.

The quake was Afghanistan’s deadliest in two decades, and officials said the toll could rise. An estimated 1,500 others were reported injured, the state-run Bakhtar News Agency said.

“They don’t have anything to eat, they are wondering what they can have to eat, and it is also raining,” a Bakhtar reporter said in footage from the quake zone. “Their houses are destroyed. Please help them, don’t leave them alone.”

The disaster heaps more misery on a country where millions already faced increasing hunger and poverty and the health system has crumbled since the Taliban retook power nearly 10 months ago amid the U.S. and NATO withdrawal. The takeover led to a cutoff of vital international financing, and most of the world has shunned the Taliban government.

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Afghanistan Quake Kills 1,000 People, Deadliest in Decades



News Desk, Barta24.com
Afghanistan Earthquake, Photo collected

Afghanistan Earthquake, Photo collected

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In this photo released by a state-run news agency Bakhtar, Afghans look at destruction caused by an earthquake in the province of Paktika, eastern Afghanistan, Wednesday (June 22).

The news of Afghanistan quake 'Deadliest in Decades' became the focus of world mrdia. Aaccoding to the report by Bakhtar News Agency via AP, a powerful earthquake struck a rural, mountainous region of eastern Afghanistan early Wednesday, killing 1,000 people and injuring 1,500 more in one of the deadliest quakes in decades. the state-run news agency reported the  officials warned that the already grim toll may still rise.

Information remained scarce on the magnitude 6.1 temblor near the Pakistani border, but quakes of that strength can cause serious damage in an area where homes and other buildings are poorly constructed and landslides are common. Experts put the depth at just 10 kilometers (6 miles) — another factor that could lead to severe destruction.

The disaster posed a major test for the Taliban-led government, which seized power last year as the U.S. planned to pull out from the country and end its longest war, two decades after toppling the same insurgents in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

Rescuers rushed to the area by helicopter Wednesday, but the response is likely to be complicated since many international aid agencies left Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover. Reaching rural areas even in the best circumstances remains difficult in Afghanistan, a landlocked nation just smaller than Texas with rutted mountain roadways that may now have sustained significant damage.

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Israel’s Government Collapses



News Deak, Barta24.com
Israel’s Government Collapses

Israel’s Government Collapses

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Israel’s governing coalition will vote to dissolve Parliament before the end of the month, the prime minister’s office said Monday (20 July), sending the country into its fifth election in three years.

According to various news agencies, the collapse follows weeks of paralysis caused by the defection of two right-wing lawmakers and frequent rebellions by three others — making Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s coalition no longer the majority in Parliament. The fallout throws a political lifeline to Benjamin Netanyahu, the former prime minister who left office last June and whose Likud party is currently leading in opinion polls.

The election, which is expected to be held in the fall, comes at a tense time after a rise in Palestinian attacks on Israelis and an escalation in a shadow war between Israel and Iran.

The current coalition agreement requires that Yair Lapid, the foreign minister and a centrist former broadcaster, would take over as interim prime minister in the event that right-wing defections prompt early elections. If that agreement is honored, Lapid will lead the government for at least several months.

Meanwhile, Israel confirmed that it is part of a regional military partnership to combat threats from Iran — the latest example of Israel’s growing engagement with some Arab governments.

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