Media Watch 13/2/15

By Rowan Williams

In Ukraine, reports of shelling in the rebel-held towns of Donetsk and Luhansk have emerged, one day after a peace deal on the conflict was reached in Belarus. The peace deal, agreed by Ukraine, Russia, France, and Germany, includes a ceasefire and will formally begin on Sunday. A demilitarised zone will also be established between government and rebel-held areas, though rebel forces have asked for the zone to better represent recent rebel territorial gains. Donetsk and Luhansk are both cities on the front lines of the conflict, and while no casualties have yet been confirmed from Friday’s latest round of shelling, rebels have said that three civilians have died during the shelling in Luhansk. Russia stands accused of supplying troops and arms to pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine, a claim Russia denies. The EU has warned Russia of further sanctions if the peace deal is not respected. An earlier ceasefire reached in September quickly broke down. A new round of EU sanctions will come into force on Monday regardless of the peace deal, with asset freezes and travel bans to be used. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has expressed the real possibility that the ceasefire will not hold.

Using hormone replacement therapy (HRT) even for short periods of time can increase the risk of ovarian cancer, a new study has found. Research from the University of Oxford has found that using HRT for five years increases the incidence of ovarian cancer from 20 per 1,000 to 21 per 1,000. One researcher has stated that claims of short courses of HRT having no risks are untrue. According to the figures, of the 1 million women on HRT in Britain, 1,000 will develop ovarian cancer from taking the drug. HRT drugs are used to treat the symptoms of the menopause, which can often interfere with everyday life. Increased risks of breast cancer from taking the drug have been documented, though the drug has also been found to reduce the risk of bowel cancer and osteoporosis. Other scientists have acknowledged the link to ovarian cancer shown in the study, though some have cautioned that the increase in risk is relatively modest.

China offered on Thursday to act as a mediator in peace negotiations with the Taliban in Afghanistan, in what is the latest sign of China’s growing involvement in the region. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi announced the offer in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad. Wang is on a two-day visit to the country that aims to cement relationships between the Pakistan and China. Chinese President Xi Jinping will also visit the country in 2015, Wang announced on Thursday. Pakistan is key to the negotiating process with the Taliban because of historic ties to Taliban leaders. Western leaders have made repeated attempts to engage with Taliban moderates in negotiating, but efforts have been largely unsuccessful.

The Papers

Money continues to be a main theme in the headlines. The Times leads with news that a “Boom time” lies ahead for families, according to Bank of England Governor Mark Carney. Falling inflation rates means that living standards are now rising at their “fastest rate since 2001”, the paper writes. The Daily Telegraph leads with the same story, telling readers to “Enjoy low prices while you can” in its headline. Families should “take advantage of cheap petrol and food”, according to Carney, with the cost of living predicted to rise at its slowest rate since records began. The Financial Times’ lead article focuses more on the issue of deflation, writing that central banks across Europe are now taking “extreme action” to “stave off deflation”. Sweden’s Riksbank has set a negative interest rate for commercial lenders, the paper writes, adding that the Bank of England has signalled it could do the same. The Guardian leads with a further report into the ongoing scandal of HSBC’s collusion in tax avoidance, today writing that “arms dealers, diamond smugglers, corrupt businessmen and drugs-runners” have all been clients of the bank’s Swiss arm. The Independent is the only paper to lead with a political story, writing that ex-Liberal Democrat Minister Jeremy Browne has slammed “‘insipid'” party Leader Nick Clegg. Browne said that the party is in a “‘no-man’s-land’ and fears it will reject chance of a second Tory coalition”.

British Media on China

On the release of Jaycee Chan: the release of Jackie Chan’s son from prison after a six-month term for drug offences received coverage from the BBC and Daily Telegraph, with the latter using an agency piece. The BBC notes that Jaycee’s arrest was part of a “wider crackdown on drug use in China”, with celebrities caught using drugs to have their works banned from transmission. The Daily Telegraph’s piece notes that Chan was shown leniency “because he’d confessed and shown contrition”. The piece also writes that his arrest was a “sensitive matter” for his father Jackie Chan due to his status as an anti-drugs ambassador.

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