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Amal Clooney attends press freedom conference

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Thursday, July 11th, 2019

Human rights lawyer Amal Clooney speaking at Freedom of Media Conference, London, England, United Kingdom | Courtesy: Reuters

Human rights lawyer Amal Clooney said on Wednesday (July 10) that nations including Australia, Britain and the U.S. set an example for other world leaders in their handling of media freedom cases.

Clooney was speaking in London at a conference for media freedom attended by delegations from more than 100 countries.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland joined Clooney on stage at the event which was hosted by Britain with the Canadian government.

During her speech, Clooney spoke of assaults on media freedom including Australian police raiding the offices of the national broadcaster in June over allegations it had published classified material.

Clooney also noted the ongoing case of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and the arrest of two Northern Ireland journalists in the U.K. The pair were arrested over the alleged theft of documents used in a documentary; however British police have since dropped their case.

The conference aimed to defend media freedom from restrictive practices by governments, encourage participants to develop plans to legislate for a free press, help improve journalists’ safety and counter disinformation. (REUTERS)

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World’s longest electric vehicle trip ends in New Zealand

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Sunday, July 21st, 2019

Dutch adventurer Wiebe Wakker posing beside his vehicle the ‘Blue Bandit’, to celebrate the completion of his three-year drive across more than 30 countries in an electric vehicle. | Courtesy: Reuters

A Dutch sustainability advocate completed the longest ever journey in an electric vehicle in New Zealand on Friday (July 19) after a three-year drive that took him through more than 30 countries.

Wiebe Wakker set off from the Netherlands in March 2016 in his “Blue Bandit” to showcase the potential of sustainable transport, funded by donations from those following his trip on social media.

“So I wanted to do my bit to promote this technology and show that sustainability is a viable way of transport. So I wanted really to do something that really speaks to the imagination which is driving an electric car from Amsterdam to literally the other side of the world to show that it can be done,” he said.

The 101,000 kilometers (62,800 miles) trip took Wakker through Eastern Europe, Iran, India, Southeast Asia, before traveling around much of Australia and across to New Zealand.

Wakker gave regular updates on his blog and social media throughout the journey, detailing visiting Iran’s biggest car manufacturer in Tehran, a breakdown on the Indonesian island of Java and visits to Australia’s outback and world-famous Uluru.

The drive had relied on the support of strangers across the globe who offered the traveler food, a place to stay and the essential means to charge his car along the way. (REUTERS)

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South Koreans boycott Japanese brands and cancel trips as diplomatic row intensifies

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Saturday, July 20th, 2019

Angry South Korean consumers are taking action after Tokyo imposed curbs on exports to South Korea, promoting a widespread boycott of Japanese products and services, from beer to clothes and travel.

“We decided to cancel (the trip to Japan) because it went against our beliefs. I’m actually feeling relieved,” said Lee Sang-won, a 29-year-old designer, who canceled his Japan trip for a 130,000 won ($110.15) fee.

Screenshots of Japan trip cancellations are trending on social media. Lee and his friends, who have changed their holiday destination to Taiwan, ‘proudly’ presented their canceled ticket to Japan on his social media account.

“I believe it is very significant for South Korean citizens to show them (the Japanese government) their thoughts and actions. These boycotts are not about how much economic damage we can inflict, but about how we can raise their awareness,” said Lee, scheduling his trip to Taiwan with his friend.

Diplomatic tensions have been simmering again since a South Korean court last year ordered Japanese companies to compensate South Koreans who were forced to work during the war. Then on July 4, Japan restricted exports of high-tech materials to South Korea, denying the move was related to the compensation issue. Tokyo cited “inadequate management” of sensitive exports, with Japanese media reporting some items ended up in North Korea. Seoul has denied that.

Meanwhile, some local supermarkets pulled Japanese beers off the shelves, which was their way of taking a stance against Japan as a quickly worsening political and economic dispute between the two East Asian neighbors rekindles lingering animosity since Japan’s World War Two occupation of Korea.

“Of course we should (boycott Japanese products). There are so many good, tasty products, domestic and overseas alike, so why bother (consuming Japanese products) when we have this problem with Japan?” said a 55-year-old South Korean customer at a local market where he can’t find Japanese beers, said he has plenty of other options which can replace Japanese products.

Economists say the tech export curbs could shave 0.4% off South Korea’s gross domestic product this year. The boycott – if it proves to be more than just a brief burst of nationalistic fervor – could marginally add to that, unless consumers spend on something else.

“We are pleased to see this has turned consumers’ favor towards our pens,” said Park Seol, assistant manager at stationery maker Monami, whose online sales have risen five-fold since the curbs.

Japan’s Fast Retailing fashion brand Uniqlo, which sells clothes worth around 140 billion yen – 6.6% of its revenue – in 186 Korean stores, is also feeling the anger as its chief financial officer said last week there was a certain impact on sales. (REUTERS)

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Gas explosion in New Zealand’s Christchurch injures several people

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Saturday, July 20th, 2019

Wreckage left by the gas explosion | Courtesy: Reuters

New Zealand emergency services evacuated residents near what they said was a suspected gas explosion in the South Island city of Christchurch on Friday (July 19) that left a house on fire and several people injured.

The city remains on edge four months after a lone gunman killed 51 people and wounded dozens in attacks on two Christchurch mosques in New Zealand’s worst peacetime mass shooting.

There was no indication that Friday’s blast had any wider security implications.

Police said in a statement that initial reports suggested that a number of people had been injured in the incident in the residential suburb of Northwood. Media reports said six people had been taken to hospital.

A house was on fire and police had closed roads and were carrying out evacuations following what they described as a “serious incident.” (REUTERS)

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