Media Digest 22/3/15

By Rowan Williams

Nine British-born medics are feared to have travelled to Syria to work in areas controlled by Islamic State (IS) militants. The nine, which includes both medical students and doctors, had been studying medicine in Sudan, and are believed to have travelled into Syria via Turkey over a week ago. Some of the medics’ families have travelled to the Turkish-Syrian border. Meanwhile, a third attacker from Wednesday’s killings at Tunis’ Bardo Museum is still on the run from authorities, Tunisia’s President Essebsi has said.

A Conservative Party election candidate has been suspended for plotting with the right-wing English Defence League (EDL) group in an attempt to win votes. Afzal Amin, Conservative Party candidate for the Dudley North constituency, is expected to be expelled from the party within days. According to video evidence, the alleged plot would have involved Amin taking credit for the calling off of an EDL protest against a planned mosque in the area. Amin had in return pledged to serve as an “ally” of the EDL in parliament. Amin has been urged by fellow party members to confess and resign immediately should the allegations be true.

Climate change could have a huge impact in China, the country’s top weather scientist has warned. In an interview with China’s state-run Xinhua news agency, Zheng Guogang, head of China’s meteorological administration, said that temperature rises in China were higher than the global average. Climate change could damage crop yields and cause droughts, storms and pose a serious threat to infrastructure projects, Zheng warned. Observers have noted the unusually frank nature of Zheng’s admission.

The Papers

Terrorism stories make a few headlines today. The Observer leads with news that nine British-born medics have travelled to Syria “to work in hospitals” for Islamic extremist group the Islamic State (IS). Families of the nine have reportedly travelled to Turkey’s border with Syria to “plead” for their return. The Sunday Telegraph leads with news that police have targeted “six key IRA suspects” wanted for past crimes, suggesting that the men could be prosecuted despite the amnesty deal agreed during the Northern Ireland peace process. The Independent on Sunday leads with news that “‘Bed-blockers’ cost the NHS £287 million”. Thousands of elderly patients end up “stuck in hospital” as social services struggle to look after them in their own homes, the paper writes. The Sunday Times leads with news that the Conservative Party plans to “revive Thatcher’s right-to-buy” scheme for social housing tenants. The paper writes that the party hopes to win working-class votes from the decision.

British Media on China

On the cyber-attack against China-focused anti-censorship website received coverage from the BBC and The Guardian after it reported that its mirror websites were victims of a massive cyber-attack. The BBC reports Greatfire as acknowledging that the attack “coincided with pressure from Chinese authorities”. The Guardian’s agency piece notes that the excess traffic created by the distributed denial of service cyber-attack is costing Greatfire “up to $30,000 per day in bandwidth”.

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