Friday, September 12, 2014

Former DUP leader Ian Paisley dies age 88

Ian Paisley the former leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, blamed by nationalists for stirring up trouble in Northern Ireland and by others for helping cement the peace process, has died aged 88.

The son of a Baptist minister he was a protester, preacher and peacemaker and particularly marked by his firebrand style of his speeches.

When he stepped down as first minister of the DUP he said it was of his own choosing but later said his successor Peter Robinson and others in the DUP forced him out.

Whilst he divided opinion, his parting will leave a hole in Northern Ireland's political landscape. In fact, despite the turbulent relationship Paisley had with his rivals in Sinn Féin, Martin McGuinness tweeted that he had lost a "friend".

"Very sad to learn that Ian Paisley has died, McGuinness posted on the social network. "My deepest sympathy to his wife Eileen & family. Once political opponents - I have lost a friend."

Reports: Sky News / BBC / BBC - Obituary / Ch4 News

tvnewswatch, London, UK

Scottish independence rattles China, Spain and others

The debate over Scottish independence has raised concerns in a number of countries where there are ongoing disputes over independence.

Some papers have discussed fears that a split from the union could spark an independence movement in small countries elsewhere. There have also concerns raised as to whether constitutional links amongst Commonwealth countries might be affected.

Chinese concerns

China, in particular is worried that the Scottish referendum might rekindle debates over Xinjiang, Tibet and Taiwan.

China has expressed surprise that London would even consider allowing the UK to break up. Furthermore its Premier Li Keqiang has said he wants to see the United Kingdom remain "united", adding that he believed the UK could "stay at the forefront in leading the world's growth and development".

His reply should not have come as a surprise. It reflects Beijing's worry about any independence movement, even one half way round the world.

Whilst the Scots are being offered a vote to determine their future, in China any talk of separation is regarded as treason and could result in a lengthy jail sentence.

Beijing has launched a huge security crackdown against what it calls Uighur separatists in the western region of Xinjiang. And in Tibet tensions still exist more than 50 years after China 'liberated' the territory and imposed Chinese rule.

Meanwhile the island of Taiwan has been threatened with invasion should they declare formal independence [BBC / BBC].

Chinese media response

Whilst China's state run news agency has been unable to avoid reporting the news surrounding Scottish independence, official responses have been somewhat muted.

When asked whether China would veto any application to the UN following independence, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson responded by saying that Scotland's independence referendum was "an internal matter of the UK."

"China has no comment on that," the spokesperson added [Xinhua]. While China claims not to have an opinion, its reporting has been very much biased towards the 'No' campaign. Articles in the last few days all point to the negative effects that independence would bring.

Oil tycoons voice opposition against Scottish independence, Salmond tries to disperse concern over financial consequences from "Yes" vote, Scottish vote for independence would change political map of remaining UK: expert, and Latest poll shows "No" backers exceed "Yes" over Scotland's independence were just some of the headlines, an indication that China's view was very much that of PM David Cameron that the UK would be better off working together.

Some media has gone further though, suggesting that the remaining union would become a third-rate nation should Scotland depart. The Beijing News roundly mocked the idea of a divided Britain, saying that the country would lose its status as a "world centre of politics, economics and culture".

The Global Times and the People's Daily, both Chinese state run newspapers, also suggested that the UK would fall from "a first-class country to a second-class one" and that David Cameron would "become a 'sinner' of history for the UK".

Chinese language newspapers and websites were even more vocal. The China Daily, Xinhua and the Global Times all talked of the risks of separatism and said China could not "afford to play this British game"

Meanwhile China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, deputy director Wang Shuo said Scottish independence would "establish a bad precedent" whilst the Global Times said "any step towards separatism can provoke a chain reaction" [Telegraph].

Spanish worries

It's not just China who is worried about the Scottish referendum. The independence debate has sparked discussions in Spain where Catalonia has sought independence for many years.

Some 1.8 million separatists in northeastern Spain have staged mass protests across Catalonia to demand a secession vote deemed illegal by Spanish government. "The UK is willing to let Scotland vote and Catalonia is refused that right by the Spanish," says Liz Castro, an author and publisher who divides her time between Massachusetts and Barcelona. "Catalans look to the Scotland-UK question with a sense of envy and admiration."

Despite the protests, a 'Yes' vote in Scotland won't change anything since the Spanish Government will maintain that the Constitution prohibits any consultation or referendum in an autonomous community [Telegraph / Guardian / US Today]

Other separatist movements

Europe has dozens of separatist movements and it is possible that some could stir should the Scottish referendum swing towards independence. In the far west of England there exists a strong nationalistic movement seeking the devolution of Cornwall from the rest of the UK.

Across the rest of Asia as well as China, separatist may become more emboldened. There are dozens of regions disputed by separatists, nationalists and state bodies. The same is true in Africa, North and South America and other parts of the world

In some countries, such as China, independence campaigners will simply be beaten back. In others they will simply be ignored. But Scottish devolution has already ignited the touchpaper and it will be hard to extinguish the flame.

tvnewswatch, London, UK

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Many questions unanswered in Scottish independence debate

With only ten days to go before Scotland decides on its future as either an independent state or part of a "family of nations", the UK's party leaders dropped into Scotland in attempt to boost the No vote.

Prime Minister David Cameron as well as Labour leader Ed Miliband abandoned their weekly prime minister's questions clash to fly north. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg also followed prompting First Minister Alex Salmond to call them the "Three Amigos".

In what appeared to be a last ditch attempt to turn things around, the Westminster troop needed to seize the initiative and persuade the Yes camp that Scottish independence would not be good either for Scotland or the UK as a whole.

Amongst the nationalist camp there is a rejection of assertions that Scotland would be unable to go it alone. Indeed many appear to be ignoring or glossing over fundamental issues.

Salmond self has evaded questions or given woolly answers concerning issues such as the future of the Scottish currency, defence, NATO membership and even border controls.

Writing in The Times, Sir John Major said the repercussion of Scottish independence would be profound. "I believe Scotland and the whole of the UK as a whole would be damaged."

"The UK would be weaker in every international body and, most damagingly, within the European Union. Our chance of reforming the EU would be diminished, and the risk of our exit from it enhanced."

Scotland too would face major challenges.

Memberships

As Salmond maintains, Scotland would be able to become a part of the EU. However, the current policy of the European Commission, as set out by its last president, José Manuel Durão Barroso, is that an independent Scotland would have to apply to join the EU. The Scottish government disagrees since it believes its membership would be continuous. It denies Scotland would be forced, as new nations are, to join the euro. The current consensus among EU member states is that Barroso is correct in his assertion, but it remains to be seen.

Scotland's independence would result in it no longer being a part of NATO. Whilst it could apply to join NATO, it would need to commit to spending 2% of its GDP annually on defence, reversing the defence cut it has promised to make after independence.

England would also face dilemmas concerning its significant military presence in Scotland. There are a number of submarine, navy and other military bases which may well be forced to head south, at great cost to the rest of the Union.

Currency issues

Currency is one of the much discussed issues. Salmond maintains that Scotland will continue to use the pound, though Westminster says he can't. To allow the Scots to use the English currency without the Treasury in Whitehall having control of Scottish economic policy would incur massive potential liabilities for the English taxpayer if the Scottish economy imploded.

Of course Scotland could choose to use the pound, in the same way that some Caribbean islands use the US dollar despite being outside America. However, divergence between the two economies could make Scotland a debt-ridden state much as Greece is to Germany.

Choosing to use the euro in the same way would bring similar problems. Furthermore Scotland cannot adopt it officially while it is still outside the EU which brings up the issue concerning membership which is again tenuous.

Scotland could set up its own currency, but it might face rapid and possibly steep devaluation, especially if it defaulted on its historic share of UK debt. Scotland has 8.4% of the UK population, and could be expected to pay 8.4% of the national public debt amounting to £111 billion of the current £1.32 trillion debt. However, the SNP say they won't honour the debt unless England agrees to a currency union, which itself is highly unlikely.

Dividing borders

No-one has yet proposed rebuilding Hadrian's Wall, but there have been some serious discussions concerning border controls.

Should Scotland join the EU, it would be forced to join up to Europe's Schengen agreement, which effectively abolishes internal borders. This would mean that anyone on the Continent could travel to Scotland unhindered.

The fear is that Scotland might create another easy entry point to England for thousands of economic migrants that currently mass in northern France [Daily Mail / Telegraph]

Such concerns have prompted the likes of Ed Miliband and others to intimate that a Yes referendum result could lead to policed border controls and passport checks between England and Scotland.

Indeed Scottish citizenship would require the issuing of Scottish passports. And then England and the rest of the UK could bar Scottish citizens from England, Wales and Northern Ireland until such times as Scotland's membership of the EU is ratified.

Other questions

These aren't the only challenges facing an independent Scotland. There are of course worries about the economy itself and how an independent Scotland will make money. There are debates over its future head of state. The Queen would likely stay as the Queen of Scotland, though Scots could invite the man regarded by some as James's legitimate heir, the 'Stuart Pretender', to replace the her. That would mean the present Duke of Bavaria becoming King Francis II of Scotland. However, Duke Franz claims to be perfectly content where he is.

Less of an issue for Scotland is what might become of the Union Flag. There has been much debate over this. Some have suggested that the flag might remain as it is, though a redesign is just as likely. The blue background might well be erased or even replaced with another colour [BBC].

Nothing is certain other than the debate over Scotland's future will continue well after the vote on September 18th.

Read more: Daily Mail /  / Guardian / BBC - Papers / Wikipedia /

tvnewswatch, London, UK

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

ISIL kill US journalist threaten death of Brit

Britain held an emergency COBRA meeting Wednesday after it emerged that a British citizen was amongst others held by the terror group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

The news that a British man was being held emerged in a new video that was posted on the Internet and discovered by SITE, which monitors the Jihadist threat. The video showed the execution and beheading of US journalist Steven Sotloff, preceded by a statement from Sotloff criticizing American foreign policy. It seemed clear the Sotloff was acting under duress, forced to make propaganda statements for his captors before being murdered in the desert.

Censorship & redactions

The video does not show the actual killing, cutting to black as the knife is brought to Sotloff's throat, Though a subsequent shot appears showing his decapitated corpse. Its structure is similar to that of the Foley execution video which was released two weeks ago.

In both cases there has been censorship, redactions and self-censorship imposed by news organisations themselves, or requested by government departments.

No news organisation has shown the video in its entirety, which is perhaps understandable. However, many news organisations also resorted to only showing selected still shots. In addition, the British journalist shown at the end of the video, and threatened with execution, was not named by most British news organisations.

Some redactions and acts of censorship is understandable. There are questions of taste when it comes to broadcasting execution videos. However, the naming or not naming a British citizen is not such a clear cut decision. The man has been named by some US news organisations, however UK government officials put out a request that the media not name the individual concerned.

Reasons offered by official intimate that "coverage will increase the threat to their lives." Though such assertions have been questioned.

The lack of publicity is said to dissuade would-be hostage-takers from bothering to kidnap reporters or others. There is some logic to this. But a complete blackout is almost entirely impossible in the modern age where the spread of information through the Internet is less controllable [Daily Beast].

What's in a name

The very name of the terrorist organisation, labelled a major threat to the West, has also been the subject of debate. Initially news organizations called the group ISIS, or Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. But later the last two letters were dropped with much of the media calling the terror group IS or Islamic State.

Meanwhile the British and US government have decided to stick with ISIL or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Government have explained their decision saying that calling the terror group IS gives them legitimacy. Nonetheless, Sky News and the BBC have yet to drop the IS tag in favour of ISIL or ISIS. CNN and other US news outlets continue to use the acronym ISIS.

Some Arab media outlets and politicians have meanwhile started using the term Da'ish. It appears to have originated from posts by Syrian opposition activists and social media users.

Da'ish is not an Arabic word and the use of acronyms is not common in Arabic. Furthermore, the jihadist group objects to the term and has advised against its usage [BBC].

Meanwhile, the use of the acronym ISIS has upset a number a number of people who share their name with the terror group. Isis Martinez, an alternative medicine provider based in Miami, started a petition asking the media to call the Islamic State by the acronym ISIL rather than ISIS. The former acronym, while used by President Obama and considered acceptable by scholars and journalists for its technical merits, is far less common than the more understandable and recognizable acronym ISIS [Vox].

Isis is also the name of an ancient Egyptian goddess worshipped as the ideal mother and wife as well as the patroness of nature and magic. She was also the friend of slaves, sinners, artisans and the downtrodden, a far cry from the murderous group that is currently spreading terror in the Middle East.

Ongoing war

There are fears that the British man shown in the latest ISIL video may already be dead. Indeed, similarities in the Foley and Sotloff productions seem to point to the fact they may have been filmed at the same time.

Whether or not he is safe, there are believed to be many others held by ISIL whose lives hang in the balance. Unfortunately their chances are not good.

Rescue efforts have been launched and failed. New strategies will likely be planned. Speaking after Sotloff's murder, President Obama affirmed his objective to "degrade and destroy ISIL". However, both the US and Britain have yet to establish any clear strategy as to how they might tackle the ongoing jihadist threat.

Obama conceded that the mission to destroy ISIL was "not going to be a one week operation". That much is clear. It took more than a decade to significantly degrade al-Qaeda following the 9/11 attacks. Yet like the Hydra, its extremist ideology was not killed by striking off one head. Indeed ISIL has itself grown out of Tanzim Qaidat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn - more commonly known as Al-Qaeda in Iraq - formed by Abu Musab Al Zarqawi in 1999, which took part in the Iraqi insurgency against American-led forces and their Iraqi allies following the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The irony is that al-Qaeda themselves have cut all ties with ISIL, reportedly for its brutality and "notorious intractability".

Media censorship, blackouts and redactions will do little to curtain ISIL's brutality. The public may be shielded from the horror, and families of those kidnapped may be protected from unnecessary grief. Politicians talk of cutting off the oxygen of publicity concerning such terror groups. Yet ignoring the severity of the problem and watering down the horror may only serve to soften the response to the threat.

tvnewswatch, London, UK

Monday, August 25, 2014

A bleak future of Islamophobia & Islamic extremism

The kidnapping and murder of American journalist James Foley has shocked many people around the world. The killing by Muslim extremists has also rekindled the debate concerning what the West should do to curb the growing tide of fundamentalism.

Whilst most academics and Muslim leaders say that the majority of Muslims are peaceful, there are a growing number of Muslims who are angry at Western foreign policy and exploit the Koran for their own purposes.

Religious interpretations

The interpretation of religious texts is often disputed, be it the Bible or Koran. Some words are taken literally, whilst others are softened or even ignored for convenience. Indeed the commandment "Thou shalt not kill" is not always observed even by Christian societies who take part in conflicts around the globe.

Hebrew texts make exceptions and allows for justified killing in the context of warfare, capital punishment, and self-defence.

The Koran too, makes clear its stand on killing. ""Do not take any human being's life which God has declared to be sacred other than in (the pursuit of) justice: this has He enjoined upon you so that you might use your reason." [Quran 6:151]

However, it comes down to interpretation and the twisting of words. Jews might seek justification in its texts that allows killing in times of war. Meanwhile Islamic extremists might suggest that their executions and murders are only carried out in the "pursuit of justice".

Whilst many Christians discard parts of the Bible, deeming certain sections to be incongruous with current times, some Muslims take the whole of the Koran very seriously.

Graven images & blasphemy

For example, the Bible states, within the Ten Commandments that one should not make a graven image or false idol. In Exodus 20:4-6 it says, "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me."

There are similar tracts in the Koran too. But whilst most Christians no longer take no issue with images of Christ or even depictions of God, for Muslims their attitude is very different.

There are conflicting opinions whether Islam prohibits graven images. Not all Islamic traditions ban images of Mohammed. Indeed some are pretty lax about pictures of lesser figures. For Muslims, the rule against depicting God and the prophets comes from the Hadith, a collection of sayings and actions attributed to Mohammed.

A few years back a cartoonist in Denmark drew pictures depicting Mohammed and drew ire from both radical and moderate Muslims alike [tvnewswatch: Trouble flares over Mohammed cartoons].

But whilst some Muslims condemned the cartoonist only with words, others threatened both the artist and Denmark with violence [tvnewswatch: Denmark faces financial crisis in wake of cartoon row].

Extreme opinions

Years before 9/11, the Taliban destroyed massive Buddhist statues in Afghanistan. They were seen by the ruling Taliban as being false prophets - false idols that demanded their destruction. Indeed the Taliban's war on art was inspired by the Koran which is often interpreted as forbidding the portrayal of living things.

"Personally I agree with the destruction of the Buddhist statues," one Muslim tells tvnewswatch. This was no flippant remark. Kadeer, a man aged about 40 and living in Shanghai, spoke passionately concerning his beliefs.

As he sat sipping an espresso coffee, he spoke of how he supported the actions of the Mujahideen and justified their actions saying, "How many times must we be hit before we react?"

Like many 'extremists' he insisted that no-one in the Twin Towers were innocent and are all were guilty of propping up the imperialist machine that is America. It is up to the US and the enemies of Islam to call a truce first, Kadeer insisted.

In spite of such views he says that Muslims are nonetheless peaceful. "What does Salaam Alaikum mean?" he asks. "It means peace be upon you," he explains.

Speaking very animatedly and with conviction, Kadeer, a Jordanian now living in China for the last 14 years, says that his views are not of a small minority of Muslims.

"I'd say around 60% of Jordanians support the Mujahideen". Though this cannot be verified, it does give an indication of how much anger exists in the Middle East directed at the West concerning their perceived interference in foreign lands.

But he calls for change not just in the West, but everywhere. Leaders everywhere exploit their citizens and that needs to change before there's peace, Kadeer says.

Kadeer is just one man amongst many who are angry at the West. And while he seemed unlikely to launch terror attacks himself, his views expressed were certainly unnerving. But there are others who not only hold such views but willing to stage violent attacks.

Suspicions and divisions

In Britain there is a significant Muslim population and in recent days they have been become the focus of suspicion. There is a fear, especially amongst the predominantly white indigenous population, that all Muslims are a threat, despite claims to the contrary.

And reports that up to 500 British jihadists have left Britain to fight in Syria and Iraq only raise levels of distrust.

The likes of extremist groups such as Al Muhajiroun and protagonists such as Anjem Choudary, Abu Hamza and others don't help the cause of moderate Muslims who insist they are not a threat to Britain and its way of life.

Losing hearts & minds

An article published in the Independent on Sunday reported that Muslims were themselves to blame. "We share blame for creating jihad generation" a Muslim strategist claimed. a former senior Muslim Army officer suggested that many young Muslims in British inner cities had been left disenfranchised by society.

During the early throes of the War on Terror which began soon after 9/11, there was much talk of "winning the hearts and minds" of Muslims around the world.

That policy has largely failed, claims Afzal Amin, a former army officer and chairman of the Armed Forces Muslim Association. And he says there must be more efforts to "defeat the coherent message of international terrorists who've hijacked religion for their own ends".

Young British Muslims' disenfranchisement is exploited by radical Islamic groups who point to the faults of NATO and its allies. The torture and prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, the disproportionate number of civilians killed in Iraq and Afghanistan and the US backing of Israel has not helped.

Syria and Iraq have now become bases for the new 'al-Qaeda' while Britain has become a recruiting ground and outpost [Telegraph].

The West justifies its continued military action in Iraq and elsewhere saying groups like ISIS pose a threat to the region and western interests. Militants continue their 'jihad' saying that they are merely "seeking justice" for Western crimes against Muslims.

With no side willing to call a halt to hostilities, extremism is only likely to grow with each allied strike. Conversely, each terrorist attack, beheading or atrocity will only cement the resolve of the West in what seems like a never ending War on Terror.

Britain's Home Secretary has promised new laws to combat the rise of extremism [Telegraph]. However, such laws may do little to strike at the deep seated causes. Indeed the future may well be one of increased Islamophobia and Islamic extremism.

tvnewswatch, London, UK

Saturday, August 23, 2014

China uses Foley murder, Ferguson riots as propaganda

Chinese media has capitalised on the murder of kidnapped journalist James Foley and the riots in Ferguson, Missouri as a propaganda tool.

Certain sections of the press in China have exploited the incidents to criticise US foreign policy and point a finger at the disquiet and ethnic divisions that exist in some parts of the United States.

On August 20th, soon after video  emerged showing Foley's execution by Islamic extremists in Iraq, Beijing-based finance magazine Caijing and Hong Kong-based Phoenix Media both published posts on their official Weibo accounts about the US journalist.

Half truths

"The American reporter beheaded by ISIS blamed the US government for the tragedy," Caijing's Weibo post began. It then quotes Foley as saying, "I call on my friends, family, and loved ones to rise up against my real killers: the US government," who ordered recent air strikes targeting ISIS.

Whilst Foley did utter these words, Caijing crucially neglected to point out that ISIS militants had forced him to read them aloud in front of the camera.

Phoenix Media's Weibo post followed in a similar vein and posted several photos of the execution including a partly censored photograph of Foley's body lying in the desert.

"US negligence"

The state-run Global Times, known for its nationalist editorials, took another tack, intimating on its Weibo account that Foley's death resulted from US government negligence towards its own citizens. The Global Times asked rhetorically on its official Weibo account, "No matter where you are, can you always rely on the U.S. military?" and followed with a nose-picking emoticon.

Public screenings

Meanwhile in Beijing a large TV was used to display footage of the execution interspersed with riots in America that followed the shooting dead of black teenager Michael Brown by a police officer. Edited into the video loop were clips of "happy families skipping in front of various Beijing landmarks" and "photographs of local school children holding handicrafts and helping old people."

"This type of juxtaposition is fairly common in China," says George of That's Beijing, adding that images of peace and prosperity in China are typically contrasted with clips of violence around the world, promoting the narrative that "chaos looms beyond our pleasant and safe borders."

According to another online source, the video was unlikely to be mandated by the state. Dr. Xu Wu, an associate professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, told Quartz that if the government had the intention to use foreign violence as propaganda, it wouldn't just be in Dongzhimen in Beijing. "You'd see it across China…everywhere," he said.

However, the screen in question often shows broadcasts from the state run channel CCTV. Furthermore there was an official looking logo shown on the bottom right of the screen, which we've as yet been unable to identify.

Anger from citizens

Whilst the state media may be trying to exploit troubles abroad, Chinese citizens were outraged both by the murder of Foley and some of the media reportage.

"Global Times, how despicable," wrote one user. "All day you use a magnifying glass to look for dirt on other people." Another user asked sarcastically, "I wonder what the Chinese government would do if you, Little Editor, were kidnapped."

Across Chinese social networks there were  expressions of horror at Foley's death and anger at the extremists who killed him. Many called his killers "monsters" or asked for a moment of silence for war correspondents. Some users posted pictures of lit candles on Weibo as others wished for peace in the Middle East.

Reports: Foreign Policy / IBT / YouTube

tvnewswatch, London, UK

Friday, August 22, 2014

Social media provides battle ground for terrorists

Social media is increasingly being exploited by terrorists to disseminate graphic videos, images and messages from around the world.

But the very size and automation of such networks is making it difficult for the companies concerned to control.

"Heart of their jihad"

"Social media is at the heart of their jihad," says Steven Stalinsky, executive director of the Middle East Media Research Institute. Indeed by posting a video showing the beheading of kidnapped journalist James Foley on YouTube the terror group achieved far greater publicity than it may have achieved should they have posted it on a jihadist website.

News of the beheading spread like wildfire across social media, with users viewing the video and sharing the link on other sites. Meanwhile the hash tag #JamesFoley almost immediately became a trending topic on Twitter.

Instilling fear

The posts are intended to instil fear, attract new recruits and raise money for such terror networks, and to some degree it is working. Groups like ISIS have received huge publicity and instilled fear amongst many Western populations and politicians alike. From reports it seems clear that many British Muslims have left to join these radical groups. It is believed that some 500 British jihadists are fighting in Iraq and Syria, with half that number coming from London alone.

And whether directly or indirectly through the use of such tools as Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and Skype, ISIS have built up a massive wealth estimated to be in the region of $1 billion.

Online battle

Curtailing the use of these social media platforms by terrorist groups is difficult. While YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook all have rules about what can be posted, it often requires users flagging up content before the companies can act.

Eileen Naughton, the new managing director of Google in the UK, explained that while the video concerned was "really troubling", YouTube, which is owned by Google, deals with a deluge of data every minute, making it very difficult to immediately remove content.

Indeed the video remained online throughout much of Tuesday 19th August before being taken down after being flagged for being in violation of YouTube policy concerning "violent and disgusting content". In a statement the company said that while it defended "everyone's right to express unpopular points of view," it draws the line on several subjects, including pornography and bomb making.

"Terrorist organizations have moved their online presence to YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social media outlets," Gabriel Weimann, a University of Haifa professor, said in a recent report on terrorism and social media. "They have turned to the new media not only because counterterrorism agencies have disrupted their traditional online presence but also because the new media offers huge audiences and ease of use."

Breaking terror laws by watching

However, ordinary users of these social networks run the risk of being labelled a terrorist or breaking terror laws. Scotland Yard's Counter Terrorism Command, SO15, has said it will be investigating the video and has warned people against viewing the graphic footage themselves.

Meanwhile, a Metropolitan Police spokesperson said, "We would like to remind the public that viewing, downloading or disseminating extremist material within the UK may constitute an offence under Terrorism legislation."

Social media backlash

There have been some examples of self policing and citizens themselves reporting links. Twitter and Facebook users soon began posting pleas to not watch the content, calling it horrific, sickening and shameful. The hashtag #ISISMediaBlackout also became popular.

But last night it was clear that the battle lines were moving as jihadists began posting on Diaspora and JustPaste.it.

In the four-minute, 40-second video, posted on YouTube, James Foley kneels in the desert in an orange uniform as a masked man dressed in black stands beside him. Foley recites a statement calling the US government his "real killers" and disavowing his American citizenship before he is beheaded.

There was mixed opinion about whether one should watch the video, law breaking aside. Channel Four News reader Krishnan Guru-Murthy suggested that simply by watching one was giving ISIS the oxygen of  publicity and submitting to their intention of spreading fear.

"Spreading a video, or even watching it yourself and telling people about it, is simply doing exactly what IS and al-Qaeda want. It is, in effect, helping them," he argues.

However, he tended to skim over the fact that while most media did not show the video, by reporting its content they were still "telling people about it" and thus in Krishnan's own words "helping them".

The video may have been an attempt to stop Western aggression, but it will likely have the opposite effect. There is a danger however that anti-Islamic tensions may rise inflaming already volatile relations between Muslims and the general population in parts of Britain, Europe and the US

Reports: BBC / Channel 4 News / Guardian / TelegraphIBT / Vice News / Emergency Management / Press TV / Guardian / NY Post / Register / Channel 4 News

tvnewswatch, London, UK

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Good Samaritans hard to find in China

Five people have appeared in a Chinese court charged in connection with the beating to death of a woman in a McDonald's restaurant earlier this year.

The woman, 37-year-old Wu Shuoyan, is alleged to have been killed last May simply for refusing to hand over her phone number to cult members [Sky News / BBC / Telegraph / Guardian / Straits Times / Tomo News - YouTubeYouTube - viewer discretion advised]. But just as shocking as the woman's murder was that people in the restaurant stood watching rather than stepping in to help. In fact some even attempted to fim the incident on their mobile phones.

Outrage

The murder, filmed on CCTV and on mobile phones, sparked outrage across China. The incident also triggered much soul searching as many Chinese netizens questioned why no-one stepped in to help the woman as she was repeatedly hit with a broom handle [Shanghaiist / D Mail]. 

The fact that nobody stepped in to help is not unusual. Indeed there are countless examples where people have ignored people in distress or need of help.

Child left for dead

In October 2011 Chinese media and internet users voiced shock at a hit-and-run incident involving a two-year-old child who was left injured in the road as passers-by ignored her [BBC ]/ D Mail / YoutTube - viewer discretion advised / Wikipedia].

The girl was hit by a van in the city of Foshan in central Guangdong province. But instead of stopping to help the child, the driver sped off. For minutes the girl laid on the road as several pedestrians and vehicles passed the girl without stopping. Then another vehicle drove over her before a rubbish collector finally helped came to her aid. Sadly the girl died a few days later [BBC].

Those that passed by were described as shameful by one local shop keeper [BBC].   

Ignoring sex assaults

The same month a man sexual assaulted a woman in full view of passers-by. But instead of helping the woman members of the public in Tianlin Road in the Xuhui District of Shanghai stood and watched with some filming the spectacle on their mobile phones [Ministry of Tofu].

As regards such incidents described above there is a fear by some people of getting involved. In seeing a violent incident many people perhaps understandably fear for their own safety. But when it comes to seeing injured toddlers on the street, the psychology is a little more difficult to explain. Some might fear litigation and culpability. Indeed in road accidents few people are willing to come forward as a witness. There are also cases where good Samaritans have found themselves in trouble. In fact China is notorious for its poor treatment of good Samaritans. There have been incidents in China, such as the Peng Yu incident in 2006, where those who helped people injured were accused of having injured the victim themselves [China Daily / Bloomberg / Alvinology].

Hysteria

The fear of becoming involved has grown to almost hysterical levels. In early August Shanghai commuters fled in panic after a foreigner feinted on a subway train. As they did so there was a near stampede and several people were knocked over in the rush [WSJ / YouTube].

There have been similar occurrences in other cities too. In June, six passengers were injured when a passenger who had fallen ill and fainted created a panicked rush to vacate Meihuayuan Station in Guangzhou [Xinhua].

The same month, a fight Guomao station in Beijing resulted in another mass stampede causing some people to fall to the ground in the commotion.

Such panic and hysteria has prompted the state news agency to call for an emergency response [Xinhua]. However, it needs more than "crisis management education" and an understanding of what to do in an emergency. Some of the scenes reported at subway stations and shopping malls are a direct result of the heightened concern over a spate of terror attacks across the country.

Indeed a rumour that someone was "slashing people with a knife" at a shopping mall in Shenzhen City in May caused a panic resulting in 12 injuries.

Possible causes

There is an inbuilt psychology amongst many Chinese not to get involved in another person's business, be it a road accident, fight or injury. Some Chinese say that it could partly be explained by years of communism where people were expected to be subservient to the state. In order to avoid trouble, especially during the Cultural Revolution, people would keep themselves to themselves and keep their noses clean.

The younger generation is less affected by the past, but the big focus on money and success has created a society where people avoid any interaction with others unless it is required of them. Even in work, few question what is asked of them even if they have grievances in order to avoid trouble.

It has to be said that there are cases in the West where similar incidents happen [China Daily / NBC / China Smack]. However, in China it is becoming more commonplace, and good Samaritans are harder to find.

Some countries legally oblige people to help others in need of help, though there are cases where such laws are ignored [Wikipedia - Good Samaritan Law]. China has discussed the possible introduction of such a law but legislation has yet to be passed [China Daily]. However in August last year Shenzhen became the first region to introduce such laws on a local level [SCMP]. It remains to be seen whether legislation can change the deeply ingrained mindset of many Chinese people.


tvnewswatch, London, UK