Media Watch 16/3/15

By Rowan Williams

Vanuatu is in immediate need of international aid after Cyclone Pam tore through the archipelago nation, the country’s President Baldwin Lonsdale has said. Eight people have been confirmed dead after the cyclone hit the south Pacific archipelago nation, though that figure is expected to rise. Contact has not been made with communities on the nation’s more remote islands, with fears that some villages may have suffered complete devastation. President Lonsdale has said that the storm has set back development by several years in the country, which is one of the world’s poorest. Lonsdale cited climate change as a contributing factor in the disaster, saying that Vanuatu has suffered rising sea levels and heavier-than-average rainfall recently. Cyclone Pam has also caused damage to south Pacific nations Kiribati and Tuvalu, and has since weakend and reached eastern New Zealand.

Three British teenagers have been released on bail in London after being stopped from travelling to Syria to join Islamic extremist group Islamic State (IS). The three young men, two aged 17 and one aged 19, were stopped in Turkey by authorities after a tip-off from the younger teenagers’ parents. Authorities had been alerted after the younger teenagers failed to return home after Friday prayers. All three were returned to the UK on Saturday and arrested on suspicion of preparing terrorist acts. After questioning by counter-terrorism officials, they have been released and will be questioned again in May as part of their bail agreement. The issue of teenagers travelling to Syria to join IS has seen more widespread exposure in past weeks after three teenage girls from east London were successfully able to travel to Syria. Authorities have praised the cooperation between UK and Turkish security services in the detention of the three teenage boys.

Disgraced former Chinese general Xu Caihou has died, Chinese authorities have confirmed.  Xu died on Sunday of multiple organ failure brought about by bladder cancer. Xu, 71, had been vice-chairman of China’s Central Military Commission – becoming the second most senior officer in the People’s Liberation Army – before his downfall during President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption drive. Xu confessed to taking bribes in exchange for awarding promotions, and had been under investigation since early 2014 and stripped of his rank, though no formal charges had been announced by authorities.

The Papers

Stories from the political sphere make a few headlines today. The Guardian leads with news that Conservative Party Chairman Grant Shapps has been “caught out” in a “fake name saga”. Shapps has abandoned claims that he stopped using a business alias after he became an MP, and conceded that he did briefly continue to pursue business interests as an MP. The Daily Telegraph leads with another exclusive from the memoir of UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage, with Farage stating he will resign if he fails to win a seat in this year’s general election. The Financial Times leads with news that former Prime Minister Tony Blair is to “step back as envoy” for the Middle East peace Quartet. “Deep unease” had existed over Blair’s poor relations with Palestinian Authority leaders, the paper writes, while the US and Europe are preparing to revise policies on Israel as the country prepares for this week’s leadership elections. The Times leads with news of three British teenagers in Turkey who were “stopped on way to join Islamic State” in Syria. Parents had reportedly tipped off authorities, and the three teenagers have been returned to the UK for questioning.

British Media on China

On China-Myanmar tensions: Tensions continue to simmer along Myanmar’s border with China, as fighting in Myanmar spills over. The Daily Telegraph and BBC have covered the conflict recently, with the BBC reporting Myanmar’s “sorrow” over Chinese civilian deaths in Chinese territory from a Myanmar bomb. China has said it will take decisive measures in the event of further incidents, the BBC writes. The Daily Telegraph reports that Chinese jets were scrambled on Saturday to the region after the Chinese deaths, but writes that “they are unlikely to result in any intervention from Beijing”.

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