Record number of journalists jailed in 2021
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has released a new report showing the number of jailed journalists hit a new record in 2021. With 293 behind bars globally, an additional 24 journalists were killed. China was the world’s worst offender, where 50 journalists are currently thought to be jailed. China is followed by Myanmar with 26 journalists locked up since the February military coup. Then follows Egypt where 25 journalists are locked up. Vietnam has jailed 23 and in Europe, Belarus currently has 19 journalists behind bars. Turkey, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Iran then follow down the list of countries, with each having incarcerated several journalists. For the first time, CPJ included journalists imprisoned in Hong Kong, most notably the founder of the now-shuttered Apple Daily newspaper, Jimmy Lai.
WHO warns against vaccine hoarding
The World Health Organization has again warned wealthy countries against hoarding COVID-19 vaccines as they try to fight off the new Omicron variant, threatening supplies to poorer countries where inoculation rates are low. Many Western nations have been rolling out booster shots, targeting the elderly and people with underlying health issues, but worries about the fast-spreading Omicron have prompted some to expand their programmes. Instead, WHO recommended boosters for those with health issues, or those who have received an inactivated shot.
EU watchdog says Omicron ‘mostly mild’
Meanwhile, as the new strain spreads, the EU medicines watchdog said Thursday the Omicron variant of COVID-19 may cause milder disease. The tentative judgement from the European Medicines Agency comes after the WHO said this week there was some evidence that Omicron causes less severe disease than Delta, the currently dominant variant. EMA echoed the finding, but said more investigation was being done.
Call to recognise climate change causes conflict
Niger called Thursday for a UN resolution formally linking climate change and security issues around the world but Russia, China and India opposed the idea. President Mohamed Bazoum made the appeal at a meeting of the council, where his country holds the presidency in December. Niger hoped for a vote on a draft resolution that would have asked UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “to integrate climate-related security risk as a central component into comprehensive conflict-prevention strategies”. Diplomats said Russia threatened to veto the draft.
Biden, Zelensky talk tensions with Russia
A grim-faced President Biden spoke with an equally-solemn Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for more than an hour Thursday as the White House denied the US president was urging the Kiev government to make concessions to Russia in order to head off a possible invasion. The 76-minute call between Biden and Zelensky was followed by a 40-minute call from the president to the leaders of nine NATO member countries in Eastern Europe. The White House did not immediately release readouts of the calls.
US ‘democracy summit’ kicks off
US President Joe Biden has gathered over 100 world leaders at a summit and made a plea to bolster democracies around the world, calling safeguarding rights and freedoms in the face of rising authoritarianism the “defining challenge” of the current era. He called for world leaders to “lock arms” to strengthen democracies and demonstrate their worth in a changing world. “This is an urgent matter,” Biden said.
US appeals court rejects Trump bid to withhold riot records
A US appeals court has rejected an attempt by former President Donald Trump to hold back the release of White House records linked to the deadly January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol. A three-judge panel of the US Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, DC, said on Thursday that Trump had provided “no basis” for his request. The former Republican president had tried to exert “executive privilege” to block the release of the documents to a US House of Representatives committee investigating the Capitol riot. But the Biden administration in October rejected that argument, prompting Trump to file a legal challenge.
‘Harry Potter’ book fetches $471,000
A first edition of Harry Potter sold for $471,000 in the United States on Thursday in what the auctioneers said was a world record price for a 20th century work of fiction. The hardback 1997 British edition of “Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone”, with a colour illustration on the cover, was described by Heritage Auctions as “magical, incredibly bright and so very near pristine”. The book was published in the United States as “Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone”. The Dallas-based auction house said only 500 copies with the specific binding were printed. The final price was more than six times the pre-sale estimate of $70,000. Previous auction prices for Harry Potter first editions have ranged from $110,000 and $138,000.