August 8, 2015

Politics and polemics: Europe's immigration story (Al Jazeera)

August 8, 2015

We analyse the media coverage of the immigration debate; plus, Cuban bloggers and their quest for freedom of expression.

The front pages of British newspapers have been dominated by one story these last few weeks – migrants trying to get into the country through the Channel Tunnel that connects the UK with France.

The tone of some of that coverage has characterised these individuals – many fleeing cash-strapped or war-torn countries – as posing a threat to both British resources and security. When you break down the relatively low number of migrants entering the UK, the amount of attention this story gets in the mainstream media may seem disproportionate. And the way that it is covered says more about the political agendas of the news outlets doing the reporting than about the story that needs to be told.

Given the current political climate in Europe with the rise of right-wing, anti-immigrant parties across the continent this is a story that needs to be contextualised and its terminology analysed.

Talking us through the story is writer and broadcaster Richard Seymour; Arun Kundani, the author of The End of Tolerance; Jonathan Portes, an  Economist journalist; and Fatima Manji, a reporter with Channel 4 News in the UK.

Other media stories that we have been tracking this week: a photojournalist has been murdered in Mexico bringing the death toll of media workers in the country this year to seven; in Malaysia, an arrest warrant has been issued for a website editor and two publications have been suspended for their coverage of a corruption scandal; and the BBC has been allowed back into Iran after being locked out for six years.

Cuban bloggers and their quest for freedom of expression

With the diplomatic thaw taking place between Havana and Washington, The Listening Post examined what it means for the Cuban media landscape.

In our third and final segment on this story we take a look at the growing community of dissident bloggers and journalists in the country.

In 2011, the country’s president, Raul Castro called on Cubans to be more critical of the government. However, some saw that as a cosmetic statement. Internet connectivity on the island is an issue and although there is growing number of critical voices online, they are only accessible to those who can afford to log on.

In this week’s feature, Marcela Pizarro speaks to three independent journalists about their work and the impact they are having in the Cuban blogosphere.

If you were following the coverage in the Huffington Post‘s UK website or Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper then you would have been lead to believe that Adbou Diouf was a Senegalese migrant making his way to Spain and documenting his journey on Instagram.

But the images posted and the entire online persona were fake.

They were put together by Tomas Pena, a Spanish filmmaker who said that he wanted to highlight what he called “western frivolity”, selfie culture and the notion that a life “hasn’t been lived, if it hasn’t been shared.” The Instagram account attracted almost 10,000 followers and when the truth was revealed Pena produced a 60-second short film from the feed. We made it our Endnote video and hope that you enjoy it as much as we did.

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2 books on S'pore elections in stores (The Straits Times)

Two books on elections in Singapore – one in English by former People’s Action Party MP Chiang Hai Ding and the other in Chinese by former political detainee Chua Yoke Lim – have hit the bookstores ahead of the next general election.

Dr Chiang said his book, Elections In Singapore 1948-2011, is “a mini-history of Singapore from the viewpoint of elections”. It concludes with a section assessing voters’ expectations and the challenges which the PAP and the opposition will face in the next GE.

Mr Chua’s book, How GE Changes Singapore, is an analysis of the “new normal” in Singapore’s politics since the 2011 GE and how the PAP and the opposition should respond to changes as they vie for votes in the coming polls.

Dr Chiang, 77, now an active volunteer with several seniors’ groups, said his 80-page book was originally a background piece he wrote to 25 autobiographical essays by former PAP MPs, including himself, in the book, We Also Served, published last year.

“But it was not used in the end, and I put it together in a book now with photographs of key figures from Singapore’s modern history as well as events such as the 1964 racial riots,” said Dr Chiang, the MP for Ulu Pandan from 1970 to 1984.

How GE Changes Singapore is by former detainee Chua Yoke Lim, while Elections In Singapore (above) is by former PAP MP Chiang Hai Ding.

In the preface to his book, he wrote: “For too long Singapore has been misrepresented as a one-party State when in fact it had a one-party Parliament for the first 16 years. Singapore has had a plethora of political parties, though only two go back further than 50 years.”

Dr Chiang told The Straits Times: “The book is timely because it can provide voters with good political background, which includes reasons for the formation of group representation constituencies, facts and figures of previous elections before they go to the polls.”

Mr Chua, 71, a freelance writer and political commentator, wrote his 126-page book to provide useful information ahead of the coming elections as well.

The Malaysia-born former member of the Malayan National Liberation Front, the armed wing of the Malayan Communist Party, was arrested in 1974, a year after he moved here to run Communist activities. But he later joined the Internal Security Department (ISD) as a research officer till 1992. He then went into business, but returned to the ISD briefly 10 years ago.

He started contributing commentaries on political issues in Singapore to Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao just a month before the May 2011 GE. “That was when I heard more opposing voices, many against government policies, emerging both in the mainstream and social media,” said Mr Chua, who became a Singapore citizen in 1987 and has worked briefly as a building contractor, chicken rice seller and taxi driver.

He has contributed more than 70 commentaries, 43 of them published in his first book of essays in June 2013. His second volume on Singapore politics, titled Lee Kuan Yew’s Era Versus Post Lee Kuan Yew’s Era, was published in April .

In his latest book, Mr Chua said the coming polls would be a tough battle for the PAP. He said “voters may respect and be thankful for what he (Mr Lee Kuan Yew) had done for Singapore but not necessarily agree with the policies of the present generation of PAP leaders”.

• Elections In Singapore and How GE Changes Singapore are available at bookstores at $14 and $13 respectively, before GST.

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