Media Watch 21/4/15

By Rowan Williams

The captain of a boat that capsized with over 800 migrants on board has been charged with reckless multiple homicide, Italian authorities have said. The Tunisian man had been trafficking the migrants from Libya to Europe across the Mediterranean Sea when it capsized on Sunday, leading to hundreds of deaths. It is now believed the boat capsized after an attempted rescue by a Portuguese merchant ship caused panic on deck. Only 27 people were rescued, including the captain. The tragedy has led to the EU introducing new measures to take action against the crisis of migrant trafficking in the Mediterranean. Search-and-rescue operations will be stepped up, while action will be taken to destroy the boats of traffickers. Funding for the EU’s Mediterranean rescue service will also be increased, and the service’s operational area will be expanded. The service, known as Triton, has been criticised as a replacement of Mare Nostrum, a wider programme cancelled by the EU in October 2014. The cancellation of this programme has been blamed for the high rate of migrant fatalities in the Mediterranean in 2015.

Labour Party Leader Ed Miliband has accused Prime Minister David Cameron of putting the UK at risk, as speculation over the potential role of the Scottish National Party (SNP) in a future coalition government continues. Miliband on Tuesday echoed earlier warnings from Conservative peer Lord Forsyth that Tory attacks on the SNP intended to damage Labour could in fact boost support for Scottish nationalists, and threaten the future integrity of the United Kingdom. Such tactics could set England against Scotland, Miliband claimed. Former Conservative Prime Minister John Major is also to give a speech today attacking a potential Labour-SNP coalition. Miliband has ruled out such a coalition, though observers have suggested the possibility of a vote-for-vote agreement between the two parties. In Northern Ireland, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) is also to launch its election manifesto today.

Chinese President Xi Jinping praised Pakistan on Tuesday for its assistance in security efforts in western China. President Xi was speaking in an address to Pakistan’s parliament as part of a visit to the country, where Xi on Monday unveiled £31 billion worth of energy and infrastructure projects. Xi praised Pakistan’s role in securing the “security and stability” of China’s western border area. Chinese authorities are concerned about Uighur separatists in its far-western Xinjiang province. Pakistan has promised it will increase cooperation in anti-terrorism operations. President Xi has also called for closer economic cooperation between the two countries.

The Papers

Political stories, especially those covering the Scottish National Party (SNP), make headlines today. The Times leads with news of a warning of an “SNP coup” from former Prime Minister John Major. Major is to warn at a rally today that an SNP alliance with Labour would push Labour further to the left. The Daily Telegraph leads with the same story, writing that Labour would face a “daily dose of political blackmail” from the SNP in such a coalition. Such a government would lead to “mayhem, higher taxes and job losses”, Major is to warn. The Guardian leads with news of a separate warning: according to Conservative peer Lord Forsyth, Prime Minister David Cameron’s anti-SNP rhetoric will “put UK at risk”. The paper writes that attacking the SNP “in order to damage Labour” could risk alienating Scottish voters. Dramatic photos of migrants being rescued from a capsizing ship in the Mediterranean also appear on front pages, though only The Independent leads with the story proper, including a “plea to Europe” in its headline to “stop this tide of death”. The paper asks leaders to take action against the “migrant crisis that has cost thousands of lives already”. The Financial times leads with news of “fears for long-term growth prospects” in the UK, after a key measure of productivity fell for a third year. Such figures cast doubts over the long-term sustainability of UK growth.

British Media on China

On China and Pakistan: President Xi’s visit to Pakistan, and his unveiling of infrastructure projects in the country, received coverage from most major UK media. The BBC writes of a “superhighway to Pakistan”, referring to the network of roads, railways and pipelines to be built. The Daily Telegraph reports that China has hailed its “iron brotherhood” with Pakistan. Xi’s visit highlights “both Beijing’s growing ambitions in the region and the United States’ receding influence there”. The Independent writes that China’s investment “will eclipse” US investment in the region. However, the paper writes that questions remain over the “feasibility” of operating a road network in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province, which suffers from a long-running separatist insurgency. The Guardian reports that the investment is “expected to give China access to move goods through Pakistan to Arabian sea”. Xi’s visit has been described as “fate-changing”, the paper reports, writing that China is offering to make Pakistan a “key partner” in its economic ambitions.

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