Media Watch 17/2/15

By Rowan Williams

In Ukraine, government forces and pro-Russian separatists have failed to meet demands to withdraw heavy weapons from their front lines, despite the deadline being on Monday. Both sides had been required to withdraw heavy weapons as part of a ceasefire deal that came into effect on Sunday. The Ukrainian government has said it will not remove its heavy weapons until fighting ceased in the town of Debaltseve. While broadly observed, the ceasefire’s terms were broken on their first day on Sunday, with fighting continuing around Debaltseve despite the agreement reached between Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany. Monitoring the ceasefire has been obstructed by rebel forces, who have denied ceasefire monitors from the Organisation for Security and Coooperation in Europe (OSCE) access to Debaltseve. The leaders of Russia, Ukraine and Germany have continued to discuss the crisis by telephone. Leaders have appealed to Russia to wield its influence to urge separatist forces to withdraw their heavy weapons.

All state and primary schools in England should be forced to teach sex-and-relationships education (SRE) lessons, a report by MPs has stated. The Commons Education Committee’s inquiry had been launched after it emerged that one third of schools were failing to teach age-appropriate SRE lessons. The committee condemned the lack of clarity surrounding Personal, Social, Health and Economic education (PSHE), which includes SRE, and called on the government to give the subject statutory status. Under current guidelines, primary schools are only required to teach the basic biology aspect of SRE, while education on sexually transmitted infections (STIs) must be provided in secondary school. More in-depth SRE teaching in primary schools can reduce the number of teenage pregnancies and STI occurrence in teenagers, but also reduces the risk of exploitation. Committee Chairman Graham Stuart pointed out that SRE can help protect vulnerable children from abuse.

China’s economy can be expected to grow by between 6.9 and 7.1 percent in 2015, an official from China’s central bank has said. Lu Lei, head of the bank’s research bureau, stated in an opinion column in the China Daily newspaper that deflation remained the biggest medium-term economic risk for China. China’s economic growth slowed to 7.4 percent in 2014, its lowest in 24 years, as China’s economic planners try to move the country towards lower, but more secure, growth. While the slowdown has increased the numbers of defaults on loans and delayed repayments, Lu Lei said in his piece that the central bank may take action to combat rising levels of debt.

The Papers

Money and finance continue to make the headlines. The Guardian leads with news that talks between Greece and its European creditors have collapsed “in acrimony”. Greece’s leaders have been told by its creditors they have “no option but austerity”, the paper writes. The Financial Times leads with the same story, writing in its headline that Athens has rejected a bailout extension from its creditors. The threat has now risen that Greece will be left without a “European financial backstop”, with the collapse in talks being the second in five days. The Times leads with news of Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, who has been ‘counting the cost’ after comments he made about keeping receipts were “shredded” by fellow Labour politicians. Balls had suggested that people should “follow his example and seek receipts for every low-cost job”, though Labour admitted on Monday night that even Balls had not always done so. The Daily Telegraph leads with news of Conservative plans for a “purge on benefits for jobless teenagers”. The Conservative Party plans to “bar youngsters from claiming” until they agree to carry out community work, the paper reports, adding that the latest polls have put the Conservatives four points ahead. The Conservatives also made the headlines in The Independent, with the paper reporting that party has been “condemned for snubbing sex education”. A new report says that refusing to teach primary school children sex education puts teenagers at risk of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

British Media on China

On the VisitBritain’s attempt to be more China-friendly: several UK media outlets reported on the release of Chinese translations for famous British landmarks, which UK tourist board VisitBritain hopes will attract more visitors from China. The BBC and The Guardian both covered the story, with the BBC focusing on VisitScotland’s attempts for recognition in China. List of places that had been given translated featured in both articles, with the Chinese translation for actor Tom Hiddleston making the Guardian’s list and the Loch Ness Monster making it into the BBC’s.

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