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Friday, 11 August 2006 02:16

World Media Watch for August 11, 2006

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WORLD MEDIA WATCH

1//Azzaman in English, Iraq--SECURITY WORSENS IN BASRA AS COUNCIL REJECTS PM'S DECISION (The provincial council in the southern city of Basra has turned down an order by Prime Minister Noouri al-Maliki to dissolve and pass its responsibilities to an emergency committee. Following a meeting, the council issued a defiant statement saying it would not abide by Maliki's order. The council is backed by powerful militias who wield immense power in the province. The province's security forces and the 10th army division deployed in Basra have declared allegiance to Maliki. However, it is not clear whether the city's police forces and army would move against the council if asked by Maliki, who is also the commander-in-chief. ... Militias of religious parties control the city and government offices in it. They are reported to have most of the 18,000 workers at the Southern Oil Company on their side and they frequently have threatened to halt oil production and exports if the government tries to limit their influence.)

2//The Guardian, UK--UK GENERAL WARNS OVER AFGHANISTAN FIGHTING (Fighting in southern Afghanistan is some of the worst faced by British troops since the Korean war, the head of the international security assistance force in the country said today. Lieutenant General David Richards said "persistent low-level dirty fighting" meant troops were struggling to recover from attacks before further violence broke out. "This sort of thing hasn't really happened so consistently, I don't think, since the Korean War or the second world war," Lt Gen Richards told the BBC World Service. ... "In one sense what [international security assistance force soldiers] are doing is days and days of intense fighting, being woken up by yet another attack, and they haven't slept for 24 hours." ... His remarks came as the parliamentary defence select committee published a report claiming that British troops in Afghanistan and Iraq were overstretched and poorly resourced. Its publication followed weekend claims that British forces in Afghanistan were "on the brink of exhaustion".)

3//Turkish Daily News, Turkey--TURKEY SEEKS IRAQI CONSENSUS ON KIRKUK BEFORE REFERENDUM (In closed-door talks with Iraqi groups, Turkey is seeking a consensus on the status of the disputed Iraqi city of Kirkuk, something that would reduce ethnic tension as a referendum on the fate of the oil-rich city, slated for next year, approaches. ... Turkish officials have so far raised the option of postponing the referendum, saying the demographic structure in Kirkuk, altered due to a massive Kurdish inflow into the city since the U.S.-led war on Iraq, would distort the outcome. But one official close to the recent talks with Iraqi groups said the priority was now on a consensus among Kirkuk groups on what the status of the city should be. If no consensus emerges, then the focus may again shift to a delay of the referendum.)

4//Worldpress.org, US--MEDIA WATCHDOGS CONDEMN PROPOSED LEGISLATION (Media watchdogs in South Africa are demanding changes to proposed government legislation that could drastically curtail press freedoms and force editors to submit entire newspapers to regulators before publication. If passed by parliament, the Film and Publication Amendment Bill 2006 would delete a clause that currently exempts print and broadcast news media from the same type of pre-publication screening and scrutiny applied to films, computer games and magazines. The bill has alarmed media freedom organizations in a country that only recently shed draconian apartheid-era laws that clamped strict regulations on the press. "One hopes that this proposed amendment is just a bungle, because it is mind-boggling in its ramifications," said Raymond Louw of the South Africa National Editors' Forum [SANEF], one of many media freedom-monitoring groups demanding a longer period of public consultation on the amendment. "In theory you would have to send the whole newspaper to them before you published ... Under this bill you wouldn't have been able to publish evidence from [former Deputy President] Jacob Zuma's rape trial, because it might have offended," he added. The Film and Publication Board's [FPB] mandate is to classify "films, videos, DVDs, computer games and certain publications for their suitable age viewership," and to protect children from potentially "harmful, disturbing or inappropriate" material.)

5//The Mail & Guardian, South Africa--FEARS OF FURTHER BLOODSHED IN SOMALIA (Somali Islamic militia on Thursday announced plans to seize control of the central regional capital of Galkayo, sparking a massive deployment by their rivals and raising the spectre of renewed bloodshed in the shattered East African nation. Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, a hard-line cleric designated a terrorist by the United States for suspected links to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network, said his militiamen -- who already control swathes of southern Somalia -- have been invited to set up an Islamic court in the central town of Galkayo. "The Islamic courts have been invited by the people of Galkayo to bring peace and harmony. There is no talk of war or violence," Aweys told Shabelle Radio from his hometown in central Galgudud region. But Adde Muse, leader of the north-eastern Somali semi-autonomous region of Puntland and who controls half of Galkayo, vowed to repel the advance. ... The other half of Galkayo, the capital of central Mudug region, is ruled by elders allied to the Islamists, who control the capital Mogadishu and whose growing influence has threatened the authority of the transitional government based in the south-central town of Baidoa.)

* * *

1//Azzaman in English, Iraq August 10, 2006

SECURITY WORSENS IN BASRA AS COUNCIL REJECTS PM'S DECISION
By Nidhal Al-Laithi

The provincial council in the southern city of Basra has turned down an order by Prime Minister Noouri al-Maliki to dissolve and pass its responsibilities to an emergency committee.

Following a meeting, the council issued a defiant statement saying it would not abide by Maliki's order.

The council is backed by powerful militias who wield immense power in the province.

The province's security forces and the 10th army division deployed in Basra have declared allegiance to Maliki.

However, it is not clear whether the city's police forces and army would move against the council if asked by Maliki, who is also the commander-in-chief.

If they do they will risk clashing with the heavily armed militias and causing bloodshed in the city, home to more than 2 million people.

Maliki had dissolved the council and stripped it of its powers.

He formed a new committee to run Basra's affairs particularly the security forces.

The committee says it has the support of the city's police and the army division stationed there.

(SNIP)

Militias of religious parties control the city and government offices in it.

They are reported to have most of the 18,000 workers at the Southern Oil Company on their side and they frequently have threatened to halt oil production and exports if the government tries to limit their influence.

2//The Guardian, UK Thursday August 10, 2006 2pm

UK GENERAL WARNS OVER AFGHANISTAN FIGHTING
David Fickling

Fighting in southern Afghanistan is some of the worst faced by British troops since the Korean war, the head of the international security assistance force in the country said today.

Lieutenant General David Richards said "persistent low-level dirty fighting" meant troops were struggling to recover from attacks before further violence broke out.

"This sort of thing hasn't really happened so consistently, I don't think, since the Korean War or the second world war," Lt Gen Richards told the BBC World Service.

"It happened for periods in the Falklands ... and it happened for short periods in the Gulf on both occasions. But this is persistent low-level dirty fighting.

"In one sense what [international security assistance force soldiers] are doing is days and days of intense fighting, being woken up by yet another attack, and they haven't slept for 24 hours."

Violence in the lawless Helmand province has claimed the lives of 10 British soldiers over the past two months.

The death toll represents a dramatic increase in a country in which only two UK troops had previously been killed in action in the five years following the October 2001 invasion.

Lt Gen Richards said some British troops would be withdrawn from the province and replaced with Afghan forces.

He added that the Nato-backed force needed more helicopters and equipment in order to cope with the violence of the insurgency.

(SNIP)

His remarks came as the parliamentary defence select committee published a report claiming that British troops in Afghanistan and Iraq were overstretched and poorly resourced.

Its publication followed weekend claims that British forces in Afghanistan were "on the brink of exhaustion".

"The Ministry of Defence's confidence that the UK armed forces are not overstretched contrasts with what we are hearing on the ground," the defence committee said.

Around 3,600 British troops are currently stationed in southern Afghanistan, and 900 more are being dispatched. The total international security assistance force numbers in the country are 10,500, not including Afghan army units.

British soldiers in Helmand have been fighting an insurgency by Taliban fighters who have forged alliances with farmers impoverished by a US-led campaign to eradicate opium crops being grown for the illegal heroin market.

(MORE)

3//Turkish Daily News, Turkey Thursday, August 10, 2006

TURKEY SEEKS IRAQI CONSENSUS ON KIRKUK BEFORE REFERENDUM
Fatma Demirelli

Ankara, Turkish Daily News

In closed-door talks with Iraqi groups, Turkey is seeking a consensus on the status of the disputed Iraqi city of Kirkuk, something that would reduce ethnic tension as a referendum on the fate of the oil-rich city, slated for next year, approaches.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan met in Istanbul for an hour yesterday with Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, a Sunni Arab, to discuss Kirkuk, among other issues such as the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) presence in Iraq, and was also expected to meet with a delegation of Iraqi Turkmen parliamentarians later in the day.

Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül, who headed to Istanbul yesterday afternoon with visiting Saudi King Abdullah, was also expected to meet with al-Hashemi and the Turkmen delegation, sources said. The meetings in Istanbul came after representatives from Iraqi Kurdish parties also visited Turkey recently. Officials insist all visits are private.

Turkish officials have so far raised the option of postponing the referendum, saying the demographic structure in Kirkuk, altered due to a massive Kurdish inflow into the city since the U.S.-led war on Iraq, would distort the outcome.

But one official close to the recent talks with Iraqi groups said the priority was now on a consensus among Kirkuk groups on what the status of the city should be. If no consensus emerges, then the focus may again shift to a delay of the referendum.

(MORE)

4//Worldpress.org, US August 10, 2006

MEDIA WATCHDOGS CONDEMN PROPOSED LEGISLATION
Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)
United Nations

Media watchdogs in South Africa are demanding changes to proposed government legislation that could drastically curtail press freedoms and force editors to submit entire newspapers to regulators before publication.

If passed by parliament, the Film and Publication Amendment Bill 2006 would delete a clause that currently exempts print and broadcast news media from the same type of pre-publication screening and scrutiny applied to films, computer games and magazines.

The bill has alarmed media freedom organizations in a country that only recently shed draconian apartheid-era laws that clamped strict regulations on the press.

"One hopes that this proposed amendment is just a bungle, because it is mind-boggling in its ramifications," said Raymond Louw of the South Africa National Editors' Forum (SANEF), one of many media freedom-monitoring groups demanding a longer period of public consultation on the amendment.

"In theory you would have to send the whole newspaper to them before you published ... Under this bill you wouldn't have been able to publish evidence from [former Deputy President] Jacob Zuma's rape trial, because it might have offended," he added.

The Film and Publication Board's (FPB) mandate is to classify "films, videos, DVDs, computer games and certain publications for their suitable age viewership," and to protect children from potentially "harmful, disturbing or inappropriate" material.

Three other organizations - the Press Ombudsman, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) and the Broadcasting Complaints Commission - currently regulate the news media in South Africa, leading critics of the proposed amendment to ask why the FPB is needed as a fourth regulator.

"What is worrying about the amendment, if it goes through, is that the entire news media in South Africa will suddenly be brought under the watch of the FPB," said Na'eem Jeenah of the Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI). "There are already other organizations committed to regulating broadcasting, so their roles would suddenly be undermined ... It would be an impossible situation."

(SNIP)

Disturbing Trend
Even if parliament does not pass the amendment, critics say its very existence has revealed a disturbing trend towards censorship in South Africa, a country widely upheld as a bastion of media freedom on a continent pockmarked with oppressive regimes.

In the 2005 worldwide press freedom index, published by watchdog group Reporters Without Borders, South Africa ranked a joint 31st with Australia out of 167 countries, one place below France and above countries such as Japan, Spain and Italy.

Neighboring countries like Mozambique came in at 49 and Botswana at 60, although Namibia was regarded more free at number 25.

"We started in 1994 at the end of apartheid with a lot of press freedom in South Africa, but there has definitely been an erosion," said Louw. "Some unacceptable legislature still on the books goes back to the apartheid era, and we want it scrapped or amended."

(MORE)

5//The Mail & Guardian, South Africa 10 August 2006 01:57

FEARS OF FURTHER BLOODSHED IN SOMALIA
Mogadishu, Somalia

Somali Islamic militia on Thursday announced plans to seize control of the central regional capital of Galkayo, sparking a massive deployment by their rivals and raising the spectre of renewed bloodshed in the shattered East African nation.

Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, a hard-line cleric designated a terrorist by the United States for suspected links to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network, said his militiamen -- who already control swathes of southern Somalia -- have been invited to set up an Islamic court in the central town of Galkayo.

"The Islamic courts have been invited by the people of Galkayo to bring peace and harmony. There is no talk of war or violence," Aweys told Shabelle Radio from his hometown in central Galgudud region.

But Adde Muse, leader of the north-eastern Somali semi-autonomous region of Puntland and who controls half of Galkayo, vowed to repel the advance.

"The aggression by the Islamists will be repelled. Nobody invited them. They are here to destabilise Puntland," Muse told local radio channels.

He has deployed hundreds of fighters and battlewagons -- pick-up trucks mounted with machine guns -- in the township in anticipation of an attack.

The other half of Galkayo, the capital of central Mudug region, is ruled by elders allied to the Islamists, who control the capital Mogadishu and whose growing influence has threatened the authority of the transitional government based in the south-central town of Baidoa.

"It is a religious obligation to pass the message of Allah to every place in Somalia. The people of Galkayo are happy to see us but the regional officers of Puntland deployed their fighters to the town," Aweys said.

He spoke a day after the Islamic militiamen seized control of the Beledweyne, the capital of Hiraan region, from an Ethiopia-backed, government-appointed governor.

The influence of the Islamists rose in June after they evicted US-backed warlords from the capital and other outposts in southern Somalia and made clear their intention to control the whole of the Horn of Africa nation.

This aim, and the feared advance to the government base in Baidoa, compelled Ethiopia to deploy troops to protect the government that was appointed in Kenya in late 2004 after more than two years of peace talks and that was seen as the best chance for the lawless country to begin reunifying.

The United Nations, the US and other Western countries have warned that any interference by Somalia's neighbours - arch-foes Ethiopia and Eritrea -- might scupper efforts to achieve lasting peace in the country.

(MORE)

Copyright 2006, Gloria R. Lalumia

WORLD MEDIA WATCH