Media Watch 25/3/15

By Rowan Williams

In the southern French Alps, search and recovery efforts continue following the crash of flight 4U 9525. The Airbus A320 craft, operated by budget German carrier Germanwings, crashed on Tuesday en route from Barcelona to Dusseldorf, leaving no survivors of its 144 passengers and 6 crew. 67 of the flight’s 144 passengers were German citizens, while 40 are believed to be Spanish. Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has said it is likely some British nationals were onboard the flight. Having found the aircraft’s cockpit voice recorder, investigators hope to explain events during the eight-minute descent the craft made before crashing, during which time no distress call was made. Terrorism and sabotage have been ruled out as causes of the crash, as have a mid-air explosion or a stall, while weather conditions in the area were known to be good. At the remote crash site between Digne and Barcelonnette, recovering the flight data recorder remains the priority for investigators.

Former Scottish National Party (SNP) leader Alex Salmond has been criticised by the Conservative Party after suggesting that the SNP could block a Conservative minority government after the general election in May. Mr Salmond, who is bidding to become an MP in the election, has said that in the event of a Conservative minority government, the SNP and Labour could vote against the Conservative Party’s Queen’s Speech, creating a ‘no confidence’ vote against the government. The Conservative Party has criticised the idea as an attempt to “sabotage the democratic will of the British people”. According to current polls, the SNP is set to become the third largest party in Westminster in the general election. Labour Party Leader Ed Miliband has dismissed a formal coalition with the SNP after observers suggested the SNP could influence a future Labour Budget should the two parties work together in government.

China has submitted to Washington a list of corrupt officials it would like extradited from the United States to face justice in China. As China’s anti-corruption “Operation Fox Hunt” against corrupt officials living abroad continues, China has now moved to target officials living in the US. Many officials are believed to have taken bribes or embezzled funds. The two countries have no extradition treaty, and China has sought to reassure a wary Washington over concerns of a lack of due process and transparency in the Chinese justice system. Senior US officials will meet with Chinese counterparts in August to discuss repatriating some Chinese officials who have fled to the US with allegedly stolen Chinese state assets. In 2014, China reportedly repatriated 500 corrupt officials living overseas, along with £325 million.

The Papers

The story of the crashed Germanwings passenger flight, which descended mysteriously into the Alps leaving no survivors, makes most headlines today. The Guardian leads with the headline “The 8-minute descent to death”, referring to the eight minutes before the crash during which the aircraft descended. The Airbus A320 aircraft failed to send a “mayday”, the paper writes. The Independent calls the period the “Mystery of the lost eight minutes”, with investigators trying to unearth causes of the crash given the perfect weather conditions, and “why pilots failed to raise alarm when plane began to plummet”. The Daily Telegraph refers to the period as “Eight minutes to oblivion” in its headline, writing of “All hope lost” for the flight’s passengers. The plane’e flight recorder has been found, and terrorism and sabotage have been ruled out as causes of the crash, the paper reports. The Times reports that some pilots of other Airbus A320 aircraft have refused to fly after the crash over potential safety concerns.  The aircraft had previously “been grounded for repairs”, the paper writes. In other news, the Financial Times leads with a report into Britain’s zero percent inflation rate, ‘ushered in’ by “Declines in cost of crude and food”.

British Media on China

On Australia and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB): Australia seemed to inch closer again to joining the AIIB on Wednesday, after Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Australia was “prepared to join” the bank should certain conditions be met. The story received coverage from the BBC and The Guardian. The BBC notes that Australia “counts China as its largest trading partner”, and that talks about how the bank “would be governed” have taken place. The Guardian’s agency piece reports Abbott as in favour of the bank “as long as it is transparent and not run by a single country”.

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