Isnin, 7 Oktober 2013

The Star Online: Metro: South & East

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The Star Online: Metro: South & East

Hong Kong journalists kicked out of APEC for shouting at Aquino


Nusa Dua (Indonesia) (AFP): APEC hosts Indonesia on Monday denied stifling press freedom after withdrawing the credentials of several Hong Kong journalists for shouting questions at the Philippine leader, insisting that they had posed a security threat.

Despite protests from Hong Kong's main journalist group, President Benigno Aquino's spokesman also said the journalists had "crossed the line" by aggressively questioning him about a hostage siege in Manila that left eight Hong Kong people dead in 2010.

"We deemed it improper for media to act that way, as they didn't talk normally but they were very demonstrative, like they were protesting," Gatot Dewa Broto, the Indonesian communications ministry official who is in charge of the APEC media centre in Bali, told AFP.

"So we did this due to security concerns," he said, adding that the press badges of four Hong Kong journalists had been deactivated.

They were free to remain in Bali, but could no longer access the media centre or venues being used for the summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, the official said.

Hong Kong media said at least nine people, including journalists and technicians, were affected from Now TV, RTHK and Commercial Radio.

As Aquino entered a meeting of APEC business leaders on Sunday, the reporters demanded to know whether he would meet Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying in Bali and apologise to the families of the hostage crisis victims.

Now TV footage showed the journalists shouting "So you're ignoring the Hong Kong people, right?" and "Have you met CY Leung" as they tried to reach their microphones over Aquino's entourage.

He did not answer the questions, and APEC staff then intervened to admonish the journalists with one accusing the reporters of "ambushing one of our visitors", Now TV showed.

Sham Yee-lan, chairwoman of the Hong Kong Journalists' Association, said Aquino's government had "yet to provide a satisfactory explanation" for why the eight Hong Kongers died in a botched police rescue and that the journalists in Bali were doing their job.

"The barring of the media for asking critical questions is an outright infringement of press freedom that is totally unacceptable," she said in a statement.

But Aquino's spokesman Ricky Carandang said the journalists had crossed an ethical boundary.

"As a former journalist I know what it's like to aggressively question a subject," he told AFP in Bali.

"The behaviour of these reporters crossed the line from mere questioning to heckling, and was even construed by Indonesian security personnel assigned to the president as a potential physical threat to him," he said.

Sri Lanka's first elected Tamil chief minister to be sworn in


Colombo (AFP) - Sri Lanka's first elected Tamil chief minister will be sworn in by President Mahinda Rajapakse Monday after a bitter election campaign, despite pressure from supporters to boycott the ceremony, his party said.

C. V. Wigneswaran's opposition Tamil party won a landslide victory in polls for a provincial council held last month in the former war zone.

The election was hailed internationally as a step towards ethnic reconciliation after decades of bloodshed.

The election, in which Wigneswaran's Tamil National Alliance (TNA) won 30 out of 38 seats, was the first in the battled-scarred northern region since the councils were formed 26 years ago.

But the campaign was marred by claims Rajapakse deployed troops to intimidate and attack minority Tamil supporters and candidates and scare off voters on polling day, to try to increase the chances of his own Sinhalese party.

In a sign of goodwill, Wigneswaran will go ahead with the oath of office at Rajapakse's official residence in Colombo on Monday morning, despite the pressure to stay away, a TNA leader said Sunday.

"Most of our supporters are dead against being sworn in before the president," said Dharmalingam Sithadthan, a TNA member elected to the Northern Province council in the September 21 polls.

"We have decided to show our goodwill. We have a desire to work together," Sithadthan told AFP.

President Rajapakse, whose party has denied claims of voter intimidation, has accused Wigneswaran of raising expectations of a separate state for minority Tamils before and after the election victory.

Elections were promised after councils were formed in 1987 in a bid to address Tamil demands for greater autonomy in exchange for an end to the separatist conflict. But continued fighting between Tamil Tiger rebels and the military meant they were never held.

Rajapakse's troops crushed the rebels in May 2009 and he declared an end to 37 years of ethnic bloodshed, in which at least 100,000 people were killed, according to UN estimates.

India's External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid is due in Colombo on Monday at the start of a two-day visit. He is scheduled to meet newly elected members of the council as well as the president, officials said.

New Delhi supported devolution of power to Sri Lanka's Tamils, who share close cultural and religious ties with Tamils in southern India. It has stressed the need for "genuine reconciliation" with Tamils after the war.

Typhoon Fitow slams into China


Beijing (AFP) - Typhoon Fitow slammed into the east coast of China Monday after thousands of people were evacuated to safety and weather authorities issued their highest alert level.

The storm, packing winds of up to 151 kilometres (94 miles) an hour, made landfall in Fujian province in the early hours, bringing lashing rain and causing widespread blackouts, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

It was expected to continue northwest but weaken quickly, the National Meteorological Centre said.

In Zhejiang province's coastal Cangnan County some houses collapsed in the strong winds, according to flood control authorities, while a boy was injured by flying glass.

As the storm bore down Sunday, the National Meteorological Centre issued a red alert, its highest level. In Zhejiang 574,000 people were evacuated, while in Fujian 177,000 were displaced, Xinhua reported.

Two port workers in Zhejiang's city of Wenzhou went missing and may have fallen into the sea, the agency said, as authorities were urged to check the safety of dams, reservoirs and chemical plants.

The storm also forced the suspension of bullet train services in several cities in Zhejiang, Fujian and Jiangxi provinces Sunday, while Wenzhou's airport cancelled 27 flights, Xinhua said.

Chinese maritime authorities also issued red alerts, warning of storm tides and waves, with fishermen urged to return to port and local authorities told to prepare harbour facilities and sea walls for high tides.

In Zhejiang more than 35,000 boats returned to harbour while in Fujian nearly 30,000 vessels were called back, according to Xinhua.

Named after a flower from Micronesia, Fitow comes just two weeks after Typhoon Usagi wreaked havoc in the region leaving at least 25 reported dead in southern China.

Fitow, which Xinhua described as the 23rd to hit China this year, arrived after passing through Japan's southern Okinawan island chain and surging past the north of Taiwan, causing flight and ferry cancellations. - AFP


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