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Myanmar Court Frees Journalists On Bail In Incitement Case

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Myanmar Court Frees Journalists On Bail In Incitement Case

A Myanmar judge on Friday freed on bail three journalists from the country’s largest private newspaper detained on incitement charges after publishing an article that raised questions over government spending.

Eleven Media’s chief reporter, Phyo Wai Win, and two editors, Kyaw Zaw Lin and Nayi Min, were arrested on Oct. 10 following a complaint by the regional government in the commercial capital of Yangon.

Their detention, in Insein prison on the outskirts of the city, marked the latest blow to press freedom in the country, where dozens of journalists have been prosecuted in recent months.

“As a reporter, I wrote my articles based on true information,” said Phyo Wai Win, as he walked free from the crowded courtroom in central Yangon’s Tamwe township on Friday. The next hearing has been scheduled for Nov. 9.

Explaining her decision to grant bail, judge Tin War War Thein told the court the journalists did not pose a flight risk.

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“The punishment for the section is not a life sentence but two years maximum, and the accused are working at a journal based in Tamwe township, so they have no reason to run away,” she said.

The trio are facing charges under Section 505 (b) of the country’s colonial-era penal code, which prohibits publishing information that may “cause fear or alarm”, that could cause someone to commit an offense, or disrupt “public tranquility”. The charges carry a maximum penalty of two years in prison.

Days before their arrest, they had published a story that included quotes from lawmakers questioning the city’s use of funds, including the overhaul of transport.

Yangon’s regional government is headed by Chief Minister Phyo Min Thein, a protégé of Myanmar’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and a member of her National League for Democracy party.

Last week, media reported, Myanmar President Win Myint ordered regional authorities to try to settle the dispute through negotiations with Myanmar’s Press Council, which has said the case must be dismissed before talks can start.

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“According to that instruction, the Yangon regional government should have dismissed the case today,” said defense lawyer Kyee Myint.

The chief minister’s assistant, Maung Maung Kyi, did not answer phone calls on Friday. Government spokesman Zaw Htay also could not be reached for comment. He recently said he would no longer respond to media requests, apart from in a biweekly press conference.

Human rights activists say press freedom in Myanmar has plummeted since Nobel laureate Suu Kyi took power in 2016 under a constitution that preserves the military’s role in politics while formally ending decades of army rule.

A total of 38 journalists have faced charges under various laws since the start of her administration, freedom of expression group Athan said last month.

Two Reuters reporters were convicted last month of breaching the Official Secrets Act and sentenced to seven years in prison, drawing global condemnation. Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, were detained last December while investigating a massacre of 10 Rohingya Muslims that took place during a military crackdown in western Rakhine state.

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Also last month, a former newspaper columnist who was harshly critical of Suu Kyi on Facebook was sentenced to seven years in prison for sedition.

In late 2016, the chief executive and another editor of Eleven Media were detained for nearly two months relating to a complaint made by Yangon Chief Minister Phyo Min Thein over a Facebook post alleging corruption in his ties with local businessmen. Phyo Min Thein told a news conference at the time that the allegations were “intended to defame my personal dignity”. Eleven Media published an apology.

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Global Covid-19 Cases Cross 12 Million As US Reaches Grim Milestone Of 3 Million Infections

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Global Covid-19 Cases Cross 12 Million As US Reaches Grim Milestone Of 3 Million Infections

The U.S. coronavirus outbreak has crossed a grim milestone of more than three million confirmed cases on Tuesday. More states have reported high numbers of cases while Florida faces shortage of hospital beds at its intensive care units.

Authorities say at least 24 states, including California, Hawaii, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma and Texas have reported disturbingly high infection rates as a percentage of diagnostic tests conducted over the past two weeks.

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In Texas alone, the number of hospitalized patients more than doubled in just two weeks.

The U.S. department of health and human services says there would be an additional short-term “surge” testing sites in three metropolitan areas in Florida, Louisiana and Texas.

More than four dozen hospitals across 25 of 67 Florida counties have reported their intensive care units are full.

A widely cited mortality model from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) projected on Tuesday U.S. deaths would reach two hundred eight thousand by November.

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In Arizona, another hot spot, the rate of coronavirus tests coming back positive rose more than a quarter as of last weekend.

The surge has forced authorities to rethink reopening businesses.

Texas state fair, which had been scheduled to open in late September, has been canceled for the first time since world war two.

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One hundred, thirty-one thousand Americans have died as a result of the pandemic.

According to Johns Hopkins University, more than 12 million persons around the world have been diagnosed with coronavirus and more than 550,000 have died. Nearly 6.7 million have recovered from the virus.

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Hunger Could Kill Millions More Than Covid-19, Warns Oxfam

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Hunger Could Kill Millions More Than Covid-19, Warns Oxfam

Oxfam, an international charity organization, says more people could die from hunger as a result of the coronavirus pandemic than from the disease itself.

Oxfam warned covid-19 crisis has disrupted harvests, food supplies and remittances in the poorest countries.

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It says middle-income countries such as South Africa, India and Brazil, have also been badly hit, with many people losing their jobs during lockdowns imposed to curb the spread of coronavirus.

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Official figures show there have been more than half a million deaths worldwide relating to covid-19. At least 12 million persons have been infected so far globally.

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US Strike On Iran General Was Unlawful, UN Expert Says

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US Strike On Iran General Was Unlawful, UN Expert Says

A United Nations expert on extrajudicial killings has said in a report on Tuesday that the United State drone strike that killed Iran’s top general Qassem Soleimani was “unlawful”.

In a January 3 attack in Iraq, near Baghdad international airport, the US President Donald Trump ordered the killing of Soleimani.

Agnes Callamard, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, in her report said “In light of the evidence that the US has provided to date, the targeting of General Soleimani, and the deaths of those accompanying him, constitute an arbitrary killing for which, under IHRL [international human rights law] the US is responsible.”

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Soleimani was seen as the most powerful figure in Iran after its supreme leader, however Trump sees him as “the world’s top terrorist” and “should have been terminated long ago”.

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As commander of the Revolutionary Guards’ overseas operations arm, the Quds Force, Soleimani was an architect of Iranian policy across the Middle East.

Callamard said the US had provided no evidence “an imminent attack” against American interests was being planned.

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Washington had accused Soleimani of masterminding attacks by Iranian-aligned militias on US forces in the region.

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