Media Watch 15/1/15

By Rowan Williams

Newly released satellite images have shown the scale of destruction wrought by Islamic extremist group Boko Haram in northern Nigeria, Amnesty International has said. The images show the town Doron Baga on the 2nd and 7th of January, before and after Boko Haram’s attack, with the later image showing thousands of homes to have been destroyed. Hundreds of people are thought to have died in the attack on the towns of Baga and Doron Baga, with attackers reported to have been shooting indiscriminately at civilians, though Nigerian authorities have disputed earlier figures claiming that 2,000 had died. The attack on Baga began on 7 January, four days after Boko Haram seized a multinational military base on Nigeria’s border with Chad. Attacks by Boko Haram have increased over the past year, with reports of suspected child suicide bombers emerging in the past week. With elections due to be held next month, doubts persist on whether they can continue to go ahead in all parts of the country. Amnesty International has described the attacks on the two towns as probably Boko Haram’s deadliest attacks to date, while the Nigerian military has said that the attacks have shown what Boko Haram is capable of.

Scotland is taking action to combat the impact of falling oil prices, after one expert warned that North Sea oilfields could be shut down if the price of oil were to fall by a few more dollars. The price of oil has dropped by 60 percent in the past six months, with international fears over the ramifications of the drop forcing Scotland to form an emergency task force aiming to preserve jobs in Scotland’s energy sector. Oil giant BP is expected to announce 300 job cuts in its North Sea operations sector, following a review. BP maintains that the review had long been planned, but admitted it had been brought forward in light of falling prices. It is expected that most of the cuts will be onshore jobs. With oil now valued at US$46 for a barrel of Brent blend, some UK oil producers are already failing to break even. Some analysts have said that having oil at US$50 a barrel means that oil cost more to produce than its retail value in 17 countries, including the US and UK. Several major oil firms have been forced to cancel major ventures by low prices, including Shell.

China is to create a venture capital fund to support start-ups worth US$6.5 billion, China’s State Council has announced. The fund will focus on helping start-ups in emerging industries, and it is hoped it will foster innovation in China’s technology, green energy, and manufacturing sectors. Money for the fund will come from pre-existing budgets set aside for the expansion of emerging industries. Observers have suggested that although only announced on Wednesday, the fund could be established within a matter of weeks. China has sought to grow its relatively small venture capital market, with 83 new funds set up in the first half of 2014. Last month, meanwhile, financial regulators issued new rules allowing insurance firms to invest in venture capital firms for the first time.

The Papers

Stories relating to terrorism make a few headlines today. The Guardian leads with news that Prime Minister David Cameron has asked US President Barack Obama to “aid UK terror fight”. The Prime Minister has asked Obama for US internet firms such as Facebook and Twitter to “assist British spy agencies” in tracking the online activities of Islamic extremists. The Times leads with the headline “A prosperous west will beat terror, vows Obama” – an article in the paper written by both leaders states that economic prosperity is crucial in the battle against terrorism. The article shows Obama agreeing with the Prime Minister’s focus on the economy, the paper writes, in a show of support for Cameron. In other news, The Financial Times leads with news that oil companies have been driven to scrap huge projects due to the plummeting price of oil. Shell has been forced to drop a £4.27 billion petrochemical venture in Qatar, while other oil firms have dropped projects in Greenland and the Falkland Islands. The Daily Telegraph leads with criticism from the Church of England. A report from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York writes that entire cities have been “cast aside” by the government, the paper writes, with the poor being “left behind by politicians obsessed with Middle England”. The Independent leads with news of “Outrage” after a judge ruled that a 44-year-old teacher was found to have been ‘groomed’ by a 16-year-old pupil. Child protection campaigners have criticised the judge for seeking to transfer the blame for the crime onto the victim, while the teacher received a suspended sentence.

British Media on China

On the announcement of Xi Jinping’s visit to the UK: the BBC and Daily Telegraph both reported that Chinese President Xi Jinping is to make a state visit to Britain in 2015. The visit was mentioned by Hugo Swire in front of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee. The Daily Telegraph writes that Britain’s reluctance to criticise China over the 2014 Hong Kong protests “had helped mend ties” between the two countries, and the securing the visit would be a “major diplomatic coup” in an election year. The BBC reports from the Foreign Office and Buckingham Palace that any state visit would be announced formally.

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