Tanzanian Journalist Arrested for Publishing ‘False’ News: Lawyer

A Tanzanian journalist has been arrested for “publishing false information” after broadcasting a story about police brutality, his lawyer said Friday, in the latest crackdown on free press in the country.

Joseph Gandye, who works for local station Watetezi TV, was arrested Thursday in the financial capital Dar es Salaam and held in police custody overnight.

His lawyer, Jones Sendodo, said Gandye was transferred to Iringa in Tanzania’s south on Friday.

“He is accused of publishing false information,” Sendodo told AFP.

The Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition, which found Watetezi TV last year, said Gandye was arrested after airing a story on August 9 about police in Iringa forcing six young detainees to sodomise each other.

His arrest comes less than a month after another Tanzanian journalist, Erick Kabendera, was detained in circumstances condemned by rights groups.

Kabendera, a respected journalist and government critic, was initially questioned over his citizenship before being threatened with sedition charges.

But in court these were dropped, and he was charged with organised crime and financial offences.

The US and British embassies in Tanzania have formally expressed their concern over a “steady erosion of due process” in the country, underscoring Kabendera’s plight as a case in point.

Accusations of “sedition” and other vague offences have been levelled against journalists and media houses under President John Magufuli, who has been criticised for his authoritarian leadership style.

Magufuli has shut down newspapers, banned opposition rallies, switched off live broadcasts of parliamentary sessions and used the cybercrimes law to jail critics.

Azory Gwanda, a Tanzanian journalist and government critic who disappeared in 2017, has never been found.

Reporters Without Borders has labelled Magufuli a “press freedom predator” and dropped Tanzania 25 places on its annual press freedom index this year.

Hosting

more

Baltics Mark 30th Anniversary of Key Anti-Soviet Protest

The three Baltic countries on Friday marked the 30th anniversary of the 1989 “Baltic Way,” a historic anti-Soviet protest that involved nearly 2 million people forming a human chain more than 600 kilometers (370 miles) long.

On Aug. 23, 1989, as the Soviet Union was weakening, the gesture was a powerful expression on the part of Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians that they were not giving up on their independence even after decades of Soviet occupation.

“People holding hands can be stronger than people holding guns,” said Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas in a tweet.
 
The celebrations come as the inhabitants of the three nations _ and many beyond _ worry about Russia’s renewed ambitions to influence the region.

“We must remember the courage and dreams of the participants. But let it also be a reminder that freedom and democracy can never be taken for granted,” Sweden’s Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom said in a statement.

The Baltic News Service recalled Friday that then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev said Moscow “started realizing very clearly that the three Baltic nations were moving toward political independence.”

The main commemorations are taking place in Vilnius, the capital of the southern-most Baltic country, and along the Lithuania-Latvia border, with a relay-race and an exhibition. In the evening, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda will host a concert in central Vilnius.

In the Latvian capital of Riga, the three Baltic prime ministers will lay wreaths at the foot of a freedom monument.
 
The chain has inspired others, including a 2008 human chain in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, where a crowd of at least 100,000 people jammed Tbilisi’s main avenue.

In Hong-Kong, protesters planned Friday to form a 40-kilometer (25-mile) human chain to demand more freedoms from China, saying it was inspired by the “Baltic Way.”

The Baltic countries declared their independence from Russia in 1918 but were annexed to the Soviet Union in 1940. Friday’s events also marked the 80th anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, a secret agreement between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany that led to the occupation of the Baltic states and Poland.

The Baltic nations remained part of the Soviet Union until 1991.

Hosting

more

Putin Orders ‘Symetric’ Measures After US Missile Test

President Vladimir Putin has ordered the Russian military to find a quid pro quo response after the test of a new U.S. missile banned under a now-defunct arms treaty.
 
In Sunday’s test, a modified ground-launched version of a Navy Tomahawk cruise missile accurately struck its target more than 500 kilometers (310 miles) away. The test came after the U.S. and Russia withdrew from the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.
 
The U.S. has explained its withdrawal from the treaty by Russian violations, a claim Moscow has denied. Speaking Friday, Putin charged that the U.S. wanted to “untie its hands to deploy the previously banned missiles in different parts of the world.”
 
He ordered the Defense Ministry and other agencies to “take the necessary measures to prepare a symmetrical answer.”

 

Hosting

more

Salvini Rivals Explore Options to Avoid Snap Italian Election

Italy’s center-left Democratic Party and the country’s quirky anti-establishment Five Star Movement are exploring whether they can form a new government to spare Italians an election this year.  
 
The one thing the two parties have in common is fear of Matteo Salvini, leader of the populist Lega Party, who hopes to sweep into power at the head of a far-right alliance in the event of a snap election he’s engineering to happen. 
 
Brussels is becoming increasingly unsettled at the prospect of a Salvini government emerging from Italy’s political chaos, which was triggered this week when the unstable two-party coalition government formed just a year ago between the Lega and the Five Star Movement (M5S) formally collapsed amid acrimony and recriminations.  
 
Salvini yanked his party out of the coalition government earlier this month, hoping he could ride his rising popularity to capture the prime ministership and seize what he termed “full powers.”  

FILE – Giuseppe Conte, then Italy’s prime minister, speaks to journalists at an impromptu news conference in Rome, Aug. 8, 2019.

Outgoing Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who resigned Tuesday in a rowdy parliamentary session, blamed Salvini for the unraveling of the short-lived, troubled government, accusing him of plotting to bring down the coalition, riding roughshod over his partners in government and showing disrespect for a “culture of rules.”  
 
He also criticized Salvini for mixing political slogans with religious symbolism, prompting the Lega leader to retort that he wasn’t ashamed of his religious faith or for having invoked the protection of the Immaculate Heart of the Madonna. 
 
Italian President Sergio Mattarella is now consulting with the various squabbling parliamentary parties to see if a working majority can be formed to avoid fresh elections and to bring some respite to the political drama.  
 
Italy’s president also has the option of appointing a government of technocrats, as was formed in 2011 in the wake of the Italian debt crisis. Mattarella has let it be known that he’d prefer to stave off an election until next year in order for parliament to agree on a budget, a process that normally takes three months.  

Focus on longer term
 
But the 78-year-old head of state has also made it clear he doesn’t want yet another short-lived government. The only real possibility for a new government lies with a tie-up between the Democrats (PD) and M5S.  
 
But many analysts are skeptical that the two parties can overcome their differences, and if so, for how long, despite their shared interest in halting the momentum of Salvini. The outgoing interior minister and the country’s most popular politician, Salvini has been building electorally thanks partly to his adeptness in dominating news cycles. 
 
M5S, founded by the popular comic and blogger Beppo Grillo, built much of its success at the expense of the PD and has focused especially on the traditional strongholds of the left in the country’s so-called Red Belt across central Italy and in the south. The party has gone out of its way to humiliate the PD, linking it tirelessly to corruption and cronyism and accusing it of being out of touch with the working class.  
 
A coalition between the two would be yet another oddball alliance paralyzed by internal disputes, warn analysts. While the PD is pro-European Union, M5S is skeptical and at one time wanted to ditch the euro currency. 
 

Democratic Party leader Nicola Zingaretti, center, leaves after meeting Italian President Sergio Mattarella, in Rome, Aug. 22, 2019. Mattarella was receiving political leaders to explore whether a majority exists in Parliament for a new government.

PD leader Nicola Zingaretti has voiced considerable skepticism about a tie-up, saying in a television interview Wednesday, “Discontinuity applies to personnel, as well as content.”  
 
But on Thursday, he left the door open, saying the archrivals could see eye to eye on issues of social justice and immigration. M5S has often been at odds with Salvini’s tough anti-migrant polices, which have helped boost the Lega’s electoral appeal. 
 
After meeting Mattarella on Thursday, Zingaretti said he was willing to explore forming a new coalition government but “not at any cost.” He told reporters it was a gamble.  
 
“We need a government that changes direction, an alternative to the right, with a new, solid program, a broad base in parliament which gives back hope to Italians.” If the gamble fails, “the natural way out of the crisis is new, early elections,” he added. 

Warning from Berlusconi
 
The proposal for a possible coalition government has been rejected by former Conservative Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who also met with Mattarella. The center-right leader, whose political star has waned as Salvini’s has risen, warned against “an improvised majority that exists only in parliament and not in the country.”  
 
Italian publisher and commentator Alberto Castelvecchi believes Zingaretti and M5S leader Luigi Di Maio will cobble together some kind of government, saying the prospect of a snap election was receding. But Castelvecchi said this would just be a delay. 
 
“The question is not if we go to elections, but when and how,” he said. 
 
Meanwhile, Salvini and his lieutenants are laying the groundwork for a national poll, one they intend to fight on an uncompromising “Italy First” agenda that will challenge the EU’s financial rules the Lega leader says are too restrictive.  
 
Midweek, one of Salvini’s advisers, Claudio Borghi, raised the prospect of a Lega-led government dumping the euro, calling it “the wrong currency for Italy.”  
 
He added, “It has impeded Italy’s growth, puts us at a competitive disadvantage and deprives the country of the freedom to choose our own fiscal policies.” 

Hosting

more

USAID Ends Haiti Food Insecurity Program

Renan Toussaint and Florence Lisene contributed to this report

PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI – Kore Lavi, a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) food program for malnourished Haitians, ended in August amid a worsening of Haiti’s food insecurity crisis. 

It is estimated that 2.6 million people, roughly a quarter of Haiti’s population, faces food insecurity in 2019. Experts say natural disasters, high inflation and the country’s socio-political and economic problems are to blame.

“Kore Lavi has served as a strong model in the ongoing development of Haiti’s National Social Protection Policy,” Alexis Barnes, acting senior development, outreach and communications officer for USAID in Port-au-Prince, told VOA via email.

“This activity was designed to be a partnership with the government of Haiti that would model through a limited sample of households a predictable, social transfer focused on consumption of nutritious foods among the most vulnerable in 21 communes,” Barnes said.  

A Kore Lavi marketplace bustling with activity. (Photo: USAID)

New way to address hunger

The multimillion-dollar program began in 2013. It provided nutritious meals to 18,000 households in the southeast, northwest, central plateau and Artibonite regions, as well as the Isle of La Gonave.

Originally scheduled to end in September 2017, USAID extended the program for two more years after Hurricane Matthew in 2016, which devastated homes and food crops in many regions of the Caribbean country.

Four NGOs — the World Food Program (WFP), World Vision, Action Against Hunger and CARE — administered the program with MAST, Haiti’s Ministry of Public Works and Social Affairs (Ministere des Affaires Sociales et du Travail Haitien).

Program coordinator Laurore Antoine said organizers used innovative ways to address hunger.

“We wanted to divorce ourselves from the traditional approach,” Antoine, a Haitian official with CARE, a Geneva-based international humanitarian and international development agency, told VOA.”We wanted to kill two birds with one stone, so we boosted local production, as well.”

Vegetables for sale at the Kore Lavi marketplace (Photo: USAID)

That new approach included “fresh products” such as meat, fish and vegetables sold by program-approved vendors.  

“That way the beneficiary was able to consume a nutritionally balanced meal and learn the components of that. But what’s more important is that we achieved this with a network of local vendors whom we found living in the community – in many cases they were women – in fact 86 percent of our local vendors were women,” he said.

Kore Lavi participants received a monthly allotment of food stamps that could be used to buy perishable provisions for the week. Vendors then turned in the vouchers for cash.

Kore Lavi vendor holds vouchers she can exchange for cash. (Photo: USAID)

Government solutions

Haitian opposition lawmaker Youri Latortue, who owns a poultry farm, said boosting national food production is key. He fears Haiti’s food insecurity will soon worsen if that doesn’t happen.

“When you have 3 million people who don’t have access to food on a daily basis, you are heading towards famine,” he told VOA’s Creole Service. “It’s not normal to depend on international aid agencies to feed the people. Of course it’s true that it is a humanitarian situation (crisis) that they can temporarily assist us with, but it’s not a permanent solution. The (Haitian) government needs to step in to do its part.”

Latortue said the government solution for the current crisis must include all sectors of the food production industry, both livestock and agriculture.

“That’s the only way out of this crisis,” he said.  

Once a week the mountain town of Canyette comes alive with the cadence of donkeys carrying baskets of vegetables, fruits and meat. (Photo: USAID)

As Kore Lavi shutters its operations, Barnes is satisfied with the program’s accomplishments.

“Achievements include the development of the SIMAST vulnerability mapping system, which has now expanded and is supported by other donors such as the European Union, and international NGOs working on activities serving the most vulnerable,” she said.  

Barnes expressed optimism that the Haitian government will keep the progress going.

“The program succeeded in demonstrating that the government of Haiti can manage a predictable social transfer activity to the most vulnerable in this country in a well-targeted and transparent manner,” she said. “Haiti’s commitment to developing the policy framework for engagement of a durable and manageable social protection system is essential to this task, and we have been proud to support our government counterparts as they vision and structure their system.”

Kore Lavi participant Marie Anna Jolicoeur, a widowed farmer and two of her five children. (Photo: USAID)

Looking forward

Does that mean the beneficiaries will maintain the level of nutrition they achieved over six years?

“The people still have problems,” Antoine acknowledged. He said things will indeed change. MAST needs access to financial resources so they can continue funding the program, he said.

Antoine hopes a micro-loan system CARE put in place to support the food program will motivate former participants to unite and borrow money to launch small businesses that can pick up where Kore Lavi left off.

“Recently, we did a resilience study using a methodology called SenseMaker, where we asked the beneficiaries to tell us how they are living, how the program changed their lives. We can tell you that (the program) required a huge effort, a lot of sacrifices, but in the end, we delivered (what we promised). So today, as we participate in the official closing ceremony, we stand proud of our work with the most vulnerable populations,” Antoine said.

Hosting

more

US Tells Canada It’s Urging China to Free Detained Canadians

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo assured Canada on Thursday that the United States was working to get China to release two Canadians it detained last year on espionage charges in cases linked to a U.S. criminal charge against a Chinese technology executive. 
 
On a visit to Ottawa, Pompeo told Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, “Please do know our team is focused on helping those two Canadians be released. We’re working on it diligently. It’s wrong that they are being held.” 
 
Pompeo said that “China needs to honor the commitments it’s made to the world, and it’s our expectation they’ll do so.” 
 
Ahead of their talks, Trudeau said he appreciated U.S. efforts and would be talking with Pompeo about “how we move forward on that.” Trudeau said last month that U.S. President Donald Trump had raised the issue with Chinese President Xi Jinping at one of their meetings. 
 
China detained former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor in December 2018 in an apparent attempt to pressure Canada to release Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer at Huawei, the giant Chinese telecommunications company. 
 

FILE – Huawei Technologies Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou is pictured as she exits the court registry following a bail hearing at British Columbia Superior Courts in Vancouver, British Columbia, Dec. 11, 2018.

Meng was arrested Dec. 1 in Vancouver at the request of U.S. authorities, who want her extradited to stand trial on fraud charges in the U.S. Since her arrest, she has been staying at her multimillion-dollar mansion there awaiting extradition proceedings. 
 
China’s relations with Canada have been icy since the arrest of Meng, who is the daughter of Huawei’s founder, Ren Zhengfei. 
 
After Trudeau spoke about the detention of the two Canadians Thursday, China’s embassy in Ottawa condemned the continued house detention of Meng.  
 
“China adheres to the principle of equality between all countries, no matter big or small. … China-Canada relations now suffer gross difficulties, and the Canadian side knows very well the root cause,” the embassy said. “Canada should release Ms. Meng Wanzhou immediately and ensure her safe return to China, and bring bilateral relations back onto the right track.” 

Some imports halted
 
Since the Meng arrest, China has stopped importing some Canadian products such as canola seed and meat. It also resentenced a convicted Canadian drug smuggler to death. 
 
Kovrig and Spavor, the two detained Canadians, have been accused of conspiring to steal state secrets, but no evidence has been disclosed. They have not been allowed access to family members or lawyers while China has them in custody. 
 
Meng is accused of lying to banks about the company’s dealings with Iran in violation of U.S. trade sanctions. 
 
Resolution of the cases has been complicated by the ongoing tit-for-tat tariff war between the U.S. and China and their lack of success, at least so far, in reaching a new trade agreement. The U.S., however, says the trade talks are separate from the criminal case against Meng. 

Hosting

more

Hovering Over Federal Reserve Minutes, a Trump Shadow

The one thing Federal Reserve officials were in broad agreement about at their last meeting was this: not tipping their hands about what happens next.

Minutes released Wednesday showed a fractious meeting on many fronts last month when a divided Fed cut interest rates for the first time in a decade. But the consensus to not reveal their intentions was clear, and may show that the steady browbeating by President Donald Trump has begun to influence how the Fed communicates.

Undercommit, and it may throw markets off course and draw more fire from Trump, who has been relentless in demanding not one but a slew of rate cuts and even a return to crisis-era bond buying to supercharge a softening but still-growing economy.

Overcommit, and it looks like capitulation to the White House, a possible blow to the Fed’s perceived status as an independent, technical agency that does not consider politics in its policy decisions.

FILE – Federal Reserve board member Jerome Powell speaks after President Donald Trump announced him as his nominee for the next chair of the Federal Reserve in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Nov. 2, 2017.

Trump adamant on rate cuts

Yet Trump has been adamant, particularly as market data has indicated some doubt about the future of the record-setting U.S. expansion, that the Fed should act to bolster an economy that seems on many fronts to be doing fine.

Safer in that situation to “be guided by incoming information and its implications for the economic outlook” and avoid “any appearance of following a preset course” of further rate cuts — in other words to stay mum.

There were serious policy disagreements at the last meeting when the Fed voted to cut the target policy rate 25 basis points, minutes of the meeting released Wednesday show.

Some wanted no cut at all, and two voting members dissented.

Some wanted a half-point cut, and in the last set of policymakers’ economic projections, a near majority said rates should fall again by year’s end.

But since then, in public, even those who wanted deeper cuts have dialed back their language a notch.

In a Financial Times column Wednesday, Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari framed his call for the Fed to use more “forward guidance” in terms of a promise not to raise rates, not a promise to cut them.

In his first comments after the July meeting, St. Louis Federal Reserve president James Bullard said the Fed would not move again in response to changes in trade policy: It had bought its “insurance” against the administration’s trade war by cutting rates once and would now look at how the economic data responds.

All ears on Powell

But a return to “data dependence” at this point poses a dilemma for Fed chairman Jerome Powell, scheduled to speak here Friday in what will be a closely watched appearance at the central bank’s annual policy retreat in the Wyoming mountains.

With bond markets again sending a warning signal about the near-term economic future as short-term rates move above long-term ones, Powell may need to say more about what the Fed plans, or at least what is influencing its thinking.

“(W)hat Powell has to say on Friday is going to be much, much more important than these minutes,” said Mary Ann Hurley, vice president in fixed-income trading at D.A. Davidson in Seattle.

Is it inflation that is too weak, or job gains that may be too strong to sustain? If overseas data matters, would a German recession trigger lower U.S. rates?

“His main message is going to be some combination of trying to arrest the panic in fixed income markets without being seen as pandering to Trump,” said Adam Posen, president of the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

When they cut rates in July, contrary to the usual sense of a strong consensus narrative about the reason why, different policymakers seemed motivated by a hodgepodge of reasons.

Demands from the White House were not among them. Fed officials insist they are not hostages to Trump. But he may be holding their tongue.

Hosting

more