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Friday, 18 August 2006 01:54

World Media Watch for August 18, 2006

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WORLD MEDIA WATCH

1//The Daily Star, Lebanon--HIZBULLAH BEGINS MONUMENTAL TASK OF REBUILDING SOUTHERN SUBURBS (Under a red banner which read "made in the USA," heavy earth-moving machinery, bulldozers and trucks lifted massive rubble and debris from a bombed-out residential building in the heart of the southern suburbs, an area that was once the home of 500,000 mostly Shiite residents. Four days after the UN sponsored cease- fire between Israel and Hizbullah fighters, the southern suburbs turned into one giant 20-kilometer workshop made up of buildings and shops that are either totally destroyed or partially damaged. But the heavy machinery clearing the rubble to pave the way for reconstruction belong to Hizbullah, the party responsible for the capture of two Israeli soldiers that triggered the 34-day war. "The party is keeping its promise to help rebuild the southern suburbs and the villages in the South that were hit by the Israeli forces," Ghassan Darwish, a senior Hizbullah official, told The Daily Star. ... Some critics say that Nasrallah's promise to rebuild these areas was nothing but an attempt to silence growing criticism of the war as well as a way of retaining his wide support among the Shiites that represent more than 40 percent of Lebanon's population. But whatever the reasons behind Nasrallah's motives, most of residents of the southern suburbs believe that the party will keep its promise to rebuild the area.)

2//Reporters Without Borders, France--TWO JOURNALISTS GO ON TRIAL WHILE WAVE OF ARRESTS CONTINUES IN NORTH (Reporters Without Borders appealed today for clemency in a trial that began yesterday in Baghdad in which Al-Wasit editor Ayad al-Tamimi and reporter Ahmed Mutare Abass face the possibility of long prison terms on charges of libelling the police, judicial and municipal authorities in Al-Kut, southeast of the capital. ... "The situation of these two journalists reflects the current climate in Iraq, which is not very favourable for the development of a truly independent press," Reporters Without Borders said. There has been a wave of arrests of journalists since the start of August, especially in the northern Kurdish region where around a dozen journalists covering peaceful demonstrations in the Sulaimaniya area have been arrested and some held for several hours. Cases have been reported of police destroying photographers' material and an Associated Press correspondent in the region was banned by the authorities from covering protests.)

3//Institute for War & Peace Reporting, UK--BAGHDAD PAPER SELLERS RISK WRATH OF MILITANTS (... Two months ago, a group of masked men showed up at his stall and ordered Shakir to stop selling papers printed by Shia groups or government officials, saying he would be killed if he didn't comply. "They even threatened people who buy these papers in the neighbourhood," said Shakir, who took the threat seriously and closed down because most papers he carried dealt with Shias and Shia issues. And it appears these weren't idle threats. Two paper sellers were killed in the last two months in Baghdad's Adhamiya neighbourhood, a Sunni area. Another three lost their lives in Dora, a district south of the capital that used to be mixed but is rapidly becoming purely Sunni. Paper sellers say no one dares to sell newspapers in these areas since they fell under the control of Sunni militants. Banned titles include SCIRI's al-Adala; al-Baya from the Dawa party; and the Sadrists' Ishraqat. And its not just paper sellers and their customers who've been caught up in this latest form of sectarian violence sweeping the Iraqi capital. Cafés with televisions have been threatened with bombing unless they stop showing Shia stations. Several bookshops have also been burned down or targeted by bombers. ... Saif Muhsin, a 33-year-old government employee, in who lives in the Adhamiya neighbourhood, is dismayed at the situation. "I never expected that the country would reach this low point of freedom where people get killed for reading or even carrying this or that paper," he said. "If only the government and the security forces granted citizens as much freedom to read different opinions as militias have to roam the streets. "But the government sits safely in the Green Zone and the militants rule the streets.")

4//The News International, Pakistan--US TO DOUBLE ANTI-MISSILE SHIPS IN PACIFIC (The United States, concerned about North Korea, will double to six by the end of the year the number of its ships in the Pacific capable of shooting down enemy ballistic missiles, the head of the Pentagon missile-defense project involved said on Wednesday. "I think it gives the nation more options," Rear Adm. Alan Hicks, program manager for Aegis ballistic missile defense, told reporters here after speaking to a conference on the fledgling U.S. shield. In coming years, a growing number of ship-based interceptor missiles will be deployed on 18 Aegis cruisers and destroyers as part of a multibillion-dollar U.S. defense push stoked by fears of North Korea and Iran. The six ships due to be available this year will carry a specialized Aegis combat system developed by Lockheed Martin Corp. as well as Standard Missile SM-3 interceptors built by Raytheon Co., Hicks said.)

5//AKI Adnkronos International, Italy--PHILIPPINES: PRESIDENT HIDES HER FUTURE AMBITIONS SAY ANALYSTS (Despite remarks on Thursday by Philippines president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo stating that she will not run for public office after June 2010, experts interviewed by AdnKronos International [AKI] do not believe her. Arroyo will try to hold on to power in whatever way she can - even beyond 2010 - they told AKI. "She's lied so often," said Benito Lim, a political analyst and professor of the Ateneo de Manila, noting that according to surveys over the past three years, seven out of 10 Filipinos do not believe the president. "She's an ambitious leader for life," Lim added. ... Ramon Casiple, executive director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform, a non-governmental organisation, echoed Lim's observation while citing Arroyo's retraction of her earlier decision not to run in 2004 presidential polls. ... "She cannot afford to step down, unless she wanted to be like Erap [former president Joseph Estrada's nickname]," he said, adding that she might even resort to declaring martial law just to remain in power. Deposed in 2001 by a popular movement, Estrada has been detained for the past few years, and is currently on trial on various counts of corruption and embezzlement.)

* * *

1//The Daily Star, Lebanon Friday, August 18, 2006

HIZBULLAH BEGINS MONUMENTAL TASK OF REBUILDING SOUTHERN SUBURBS
By Osama Habib, Daily Star staff

BEIRUT: Under a red banner which read "made in the USA," heavy earth-moving machinery, bulldozers and trucks lifted massive rubble and debris from a bombed-out residential building in the heart of the southern suburbs, an area that was once the home of 500,000 mostly Shiite residents. Four days after the UN sponsored cease- fire between Israel and Hizbullah fighters, the southern suburbs turned into one giant 20-kilometer workshop made up of buildings and shops that are either totally destroyed or partially damaged.

But the heavy machinery clearing the rubble to pave the way for reconstruction belong to Hizbullah, the party responsible for the capture of two Israeli soldiers that triggered the 34-day war.

"The party is keeping its promise to help rebuild the southern suburbs and the villages in the South that were hit by the Israeli forces," Ghassan Darwish, a senior Hizbullah official, told The Daily Star.

Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah pledged in the early days of the war that his party, with help of friendly countries, will rebuild all the destroyed properties in the suburbs and South Lebanon.

Some critics say that Nasrallah's promise to rebuild these areas was nothing but an attempt to silence growing criticism of the war as well as a way of retaining his wide support among the Shiites that represent more than 40 percent of Lebanon's population.

But whatever the reasons behind Nasrallah's motives, most of residents of the southern suburbs believe that the party will keep its promise to rebuild the area.

According to Darwish's survey, the intense Israeli bombardment destroyed 198 buildings and damaged another 200.

The Council for Development and Reconstruction estimated the total cost of infrastructure destruction in Lebanon at $3.6 billion. The CDR declined to estimate the cost of damage in the suburbs but some contractors say the cost is close to $1 billion.

In addition to the residential buildings, over 600 businesses and shops were damaged during the conflict.

Apart from its pledge to rebuild the damaged houses, Hizbullah has started collecting the names of all the Southern residents who were directly affected by the war.

"We are offering to pay one year's rent plus buying the furniture to give us time to either rebuild destroyed houses or repair the damaged apartments," said Bilal Naim, a Hizbullah official responsible for the volunteers department.

He added that each resident who lost his or her house will receive between $8,000 to $10,000.

"This money can be used to pay one years' rent in any area or town the residents of the southern suburbs want," Naim said.

Hizbullah officials said that money is not a problem so far, but expressed a willingness to receive additional help from the government or any other party.

The party is very discrete about its sources of funding or the size of donations coming from different donors.

It is widely believed that Iran is one of the main financial backers of Hizbullah.

"We have lot of friends in the Arab and Muslim world who make handsome contributions to our party," Darwish said.

(SNIP)

Asked why Hizbullah did not seek the help of the government, Darwish said the government was welcome to come and take the lead in reconstructing the area.

"We are not competing with the government. They [the government] have the right to be here just like us. But we cannot wait indefinitely until the state makes up its mind to act."

Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said earlier that the government would also compensate those who lost their houses and businesses during the war.

The government has already received more than $1 billion in donations with which to begin reconstruction work.

2//Reporters Without Borders, France 17 August 2006

TWO JOURNALISTS GO ON TRIAL WHILE WAVE OF ARRESTS CONTINUES IN NORTH

Reporters Without Borders appealed today for clemency in a trial that began yesterday in Baghdad in which Al-Wasit editor Ayad al-Tamimi and reporter Ahmed Mutare Abass face the possibility of long prison terms on charges of libelling the police, judicial and municipal authorities in Al-Kut, southeast of the capital.

The trial concerns several articles published last year, including one criticising the judicial system and one about alleged police corruption. Arrested in April 2005 on the orders of the mayor of Kawit, they have already served six-month prison terms imposed by an Al-Kut court.

They are now being tried on four counts of violating article 226 of the Iraqi criminal code. The case was finally transferred to a Baghdad court at their request on the grounds that the judges in Al-Kut were biased against them.

"The situation of these two journalists reflects the current climate in Iraq, which is not very favourable for the development of a truly independent press," Reporters Without Borders said.

There has been a wave of arrests of journalists since the start of August, especially in the northern Kurdish region where around a dozen journalists covering peaceful demonstrations in the Sulaimaniya area have been arrested and some held for several hours. Cases have been reported of police destroying photographers' material and an Associated Press correspondent in the region was banned by the authorities from covering protests.

(MORE)

3//Institute for War & Peace Reporting, UK (ICR No. 190, 17-Aug-06)

BAGHDAD PAPER SELLERS RISK WRATH OF MILITANTS
There are plenty of newspapers on offer but selling - or reading - the wrong one in the wrong neighbourhood could prove deadly.

By Hussein Ali in Baghdad

Mohammed Shakir has been selling newspapers from his stall on the right bank of the Tigris River in Baghdad for 20 years.

He used to offer a selection from all of Iraq's political movements and parties - but no more. In his majority Sunni neighbourhood that has proved simply too dangerous.

Two months ago, a group of masked men showed up at his stall and ordered Shakir to stop selling papers printed by Shia groups or government officials, saying he would be killed if he didn't comply.

"They even threatened people who buy these papers in the neighbourhood," said Shakir, who took the threat seriously and closed down because most papers he carried dealt with Shias and Shia issues.

And it appears these weren't idle threats. Two paper sellers were killed in the last two months in Baghdad's Adhamiya neighbourhood, a Sunni area. Another three lost their lives in Dora, a district south of the capital that used to be mixed but is rapidly becoming purely Sunni.

Paper sellers say no one dares to sell newspapers in these areas since they fell under the control of Sunni militants. Banned titles include SCIRI's al-Adala; al-Baya from the Dawa party; and the Sadrists' Ishraqat.

And its not just paper sellers and their customers who've been caught up in this latest form of sectarian violence sweeping the Iraqi capital.

Cafés with televisions have been threatened with bombing unless they stop showing Shia stations. Several bookshops have also been burned down or targeted by bombers.

The attacks come against a backdrop of a seemingly vibrant media environment in Iraq.

During Saddam's time, the only papers available were those issued and controlled by the state. After the regime's fall, the media scene flourished. In summer 2003, dozens of new titles appeared, and after decades of censorship Iraqis were at last able to enjoy diverse viewpoints.

In the last year, however, the Iraqi media has developed a strong tendency towards sectarianism. Many papers, radio and television stations are now closely affiliated with political or ethnic groups, which often provide them with funds.

(SNIP)

Saif Muhsin, a 33-year-old government employee, in who lives in the Adhamiya neighbourhood, is dismayed at the situation.

"I never expected that the country would reach this low point of freedom where people get killed for reading or even carrying this or that paper," he said.

"If only the government and the security forces granted citizens as much freedom to read different opinions as militias have to roam the streets.

"But the government sits safely in the Green Zone and the militants rule the streets."

4//The News International, Pakistan Friday, August 18, 2006, Rajab 22, 1427 A.H.

US TO DOUBLE ANTI-MISSILE SHIPS IN PACIFIC

Huntsville, Alabama: The United States, concerned about North Korea, will double to six by the end of the year the number of its ships in the Pacific capable of shooting down enemy ballistic missiles, the head of the Pentagon missile-defense project involved said on Wednesday.

"I think it gives the nation more options," Rear Adm. Alan Hicks, program manager for Aegis ballistic missile defense, told reporters here after speaking to a conference on the fledgling U.S. shield.

In coming years, a growing number of ship-based interceptor missiles will be deployed on 18 Aegis cruisers and destroyers as part of a multibillion-dollar U.S. defense push stoked by fears of North Korea and Iran.

The six ships due to be available this year will carry a specialized Aegis combat system developed by Lockheed Martin Corp. as well as Standard Missile SM-3 interceptors built by Raytheon Co., Hicks said.

As such, they will be able to defend against short- and medium-range ballistic missiles as well as against any threats to themselves, he said.

Longer-range, intercontinental missiles travel faster than the current generation of ship-based interceptors, or about 6,000 miles an hour, he said. Japan and the United States are co-developing an advanced model, dubbed SM-3 Block 2, to tackle the long-range threat, with plans to deploy it by 2015.

(SNIP)

None of the three U.S. Aegis ships then capable of shooting down ballistic missiles was on station during the North Korean launches, though other Aegis ships helped track them as part of the layered U.S. anti-missile shield, Hicks said.

The United States has taken other steps to meet the perceived threat of North Korean missiles, which could be tipped with nuclear, chemical or germ weapons.

It is sending Lockheed Martin/Raytheon Patriot Advanced Capability-3 surface-to-air interceptors to Kadena Air Base on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa from September and plans to make them partly operational by the end of the year, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said last month.

5//AKI Adnkronos International, Italy Aug-17-2006 11:56 pm

PHILIPPINES: PRESIDENT HIDES HER FUTURE AMBITIONS SAY ANALYSTS

Manila, 17 August (AKI) - Despite remarks on Thursday by Philippines president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo stating that she will not run for public office after June 2010, experts interviewed by AdnKronos International (AKI) do not believe her. Arroyo will try to hold on to power in whatever way she can - even beyond 2010 - they told AKI.

"She's lied so often," said Benito Lim, a political analyst and professor of the Ateneo de Manila, noting that according to surveys over the past three years, seven out of 10 Filipinos do not believe the president. "She's an ambitious leader for life," Lim added.

Arroyo's term of office will end at midday on June 30, 2010. However, she has been pushing for Constitutional amendments, specifically ones that would change the country' system of government from a presidential to parliamentary one. Behind her drive for Constitutional change - locally known as Cha-cha - is Arroyo's drive to remain in power.

In the current form, the Filipino Constitution allows the president to hold office only for one term. But, switching to a parliamentary system would free Arroyo to run as prime minister and effectively maintain her grip on power.

The president's promise not to run came during an interview with the daily ‘The Manila Bulletin', published on Thursday.

Ramon Casiple, executive director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform, a non-governmental organisation, echoed Lim's observation while citing Arroyo's retraction of her earlier decision not to run in 2004 presidential polls.

On December 30, 2002, Arroyo declared that she would make the "supreme sacrifice" of not standing for president in 2004 in order to unite the 85 million Filipinos.

But when the 2004 polls drew nearer, she changed her mind and decided to seek the presidency. She won the election, but was accused of cheating in the poll and has since been facing two impeachment procedures. She is also accused of corruption, abuse of power, and human rights crimes.

"She cannot afford to step down, unless she wanted to be like Erap (former president Joseph Estrada's nickname)," he said, adding that she might even resort to declaring martial law just to remain in power.

Deposed in 2001 by a popular movement, Estrada has been detained for the past few years, and is currently on trial on various counts of corruption and embezzlement.

Copyright 2006, Gloria R. Lalumia

WORLD MEDIA WATCH