Global experts and decision makers discuss, debate and analyse a key news story.
Has Covid rolled back democratic rights?
Countries around the world are using the coronavirus pandemic to 'crush dissent and silence independent reporting' according to the UN chief Antonio Guterres. He says some nations are using restrictions meant to halt the spread of Covid-19 to weaken political opposition. Governments say a tighter grip over freedom of expression is essential to curb disinformation and confusion at a time when societies are under lockdown. Countries with authoritarian tendencies aren't the only ones under fire - the criticisms are being leveled at governments with well-established democracies too. So what are governments trying to get away with under the cover of Covid? How have the changes taken away democratic rights, and can the trends be reversed? Ritula Shah and a panel of guests discuss dissent in the time of Covid.
Who should pay for the news?
Google this week signed multi-million dollar deals with a number of major news providers in Australia, agreeing to pay for the journalism it features on its new ‘News Showcase’ pages. It comes as Australia’s parliament debates a proposed new law that would force tech giants to negotiate with news outlets big and small. Facebook, which like Google opposes the draft law, responded by blocking access to news content on the platform nationwide. But critics argue the proposed laws don’t go far enough and that the traditional business model of funding journalism through advertising revenue is broken. The pandemic has meant reduced income for many small newsrooms, despite an apparent rise in appetite for local information surrounding Covid-19. If access to reliable news is crucial to the smooth running of democracy, who should step in to pay for the journalism voters need? When it comes to paying the bills, what is the future of news? Join Paul Henley and a panel of expert guests.
Is China erasing Uighur culture?
This week, lawyers in London concluded that the genocide of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang province by the Chinese government is a ‘very credible’ allegation. The London based court also said that it is ‘plausible’ that the country’s president, Xi Jinping, is driving that policy. The allegation of genocide - levelled by Uighur activists, international human rights groups, as well as the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken - stems from an industrial scale crackdown in China’s Xinjiang province which has seen more than a million Uighurs and other ethnic minority Muslims imprisoned in a vast network of camps, where people say they have been subjected to rape and torture. The Chinese government has vehemently rejected the claims. It says measures are necessary to put an end to violent attacks in the region and it describes the facilities as re-education centres. So, what do we know about what is really going on in Xinjiang? Is there any merit to China’s argument about the need to defeat violent extremism in the region? Why is the Communist party intent on assimilating Uighurs into Han Chinese cultural traditions? How much is Xi Jinping’s vision for China behind it, and to what extent is Uighur culture - with its unique history and traditions - at risk of being destroyed in Beijing’s plan? Ritula Shah and a panel of expert guests discuss whether China is erasing Uighur culture.
Cryptocurrencies: Fad or the future?
Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have been back in the news this week after the endorsement of SpaceX and Tesla boss Elon Musk. His comments prompted the price of bitcoin to rise sharply. It’s thought that a perfect storm of inflationary coronavirus stimulus spending by governments, plus eroding trust in financial markets is pushing investors towards the volatile investments. Hundreds of so called ‘alt-coins’ have followed Bitcoin into the highly unregulated cryptocurrency marketplace and worthless coins are being marketed on social media with prices rocketing hundreds of percentage points in minutes. It all has institutional investors wondering whether to dip their toes in for fear of missing out - and regulators scratching their heads about what to do next. New US treasury secretary Janet Yellen says cryptocurrencies are of ‘particular concern’ and the Indian government is now seeking to prohibit private cryptocurrencies altogether. So what are they and how have they evolved since the early days of Bitcoin a decade ago? Ritula Shah and a panel of guests discuss cryptocurrencies and what should be done about them.
China's advance into Latin America
This month, in a highly unusual move, an American government agency bought nearly $3bn of debt from Ecuador that was owed to China. The aim – in the form of fresh loans – was to help Ecuador pay off 'predatory Chinese debt', strengthen its alliance with the United States and exclude Chinese companies from developing the country's telecoms network. Although the deal came at the end of the Trump presidency, it may encourage other South American countries to reach similar arrangements in the future. According to the UN, Chinese companies have invested $10bn a year in Latin America. Although the amount is far less than that of the United States, Chinese companies have made rapid inroads into the heart of Latin American economies, including in crucial sectors such as mining, power grids and telecommunications. There's speculation that many leaders find Chinese investment attractive because it's rarely tied to anti-corruption measures. Others say countries are walking into a Chinese-made 'debt trap' which will have negative economic consequences over the long run. So is China viewed by those across the region with suspicion, or as a welcome alternative to the United States - which has a controversial history operating outside its own borders? What's been the tangible impact of China's economic advances in Latin America, and will President Biden seek to cooperate with China in the region - or treat it as a strategic threat? Join Ritula Shah and guests as they discuss China's growing influence in Latin America.
Afghanistan: Hard choices for Biden
The future of US troops in Afghanistan could be Joe Biden's first major foreign policy decision. Less than a year ago the Trump administration reached a deal with the Taliban to withdraw all American troops from the country. The Taliban promised to stop targeting US and NATO forces as they wound down their presence. Now, with the May deadline fast approaching, President Biden will need to decide whether to honour the agreement at a time when the Taliban is being blamed for a string of deadly attacks targeting journalists, judges and police officers. The Red Cross described Afghanistan as the deadliest country for civilians in 2020, but despite the violence the government in Kabul is continuing discussions with the Taliban over a framework for peace negotiations. The presence of foreign troops has provided some level of security against an enemy that controls swathes of the countryside, so what will happen if and when they leave? And could advances in gender equality and religious freedoms be rolled back as part of any final agreement? Join Ritula Shah and guests as they discuss the state of Afghanistan and the tough decisions the Biden administration will soon need to make.
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