Media Watch 26/2/15

By Rowan Williams

The man known as ‘Jihadi John’, a militant for Islamic extremist group the Islamic State (IS), has been named as London man Mohammed Emwazi. Emwazi, a Kuwaiti-born British man believed to have previously lived in west London, has appeared in several IS videos depicting the beheading of Western hostages. Emwazi, who had been known to UK security services, has been the subject of much media speculation since his first appearance in a hostage execution video in August 2014. Observers had noted Emwazi’s British accent in his videos. Emwazi most recently appeared in an IS video in January, during which Japanese hostages Kenji Goto and Haruna Yukawa were executed. Emwazi is understood to have come from a well-to-do background, and studied computer programming at university. He first appears in publicly-known security services records in 2011, with his name featuring in semi-secret court cases relating to extremism. He is believed to have left the UK to travel to Syria around 2012, and is not expected to return.

Net migration into the UK rose to 298,000 for the year ending September 2014, new figures have shown. The level of migration is now significantly higher than it had been when the Conservative government came to power in 2010, despite Conservative hopes to reduce annual net migration below 100,000. The Conservative Party has blamed EU migration for the increase, as well as obstruction from coalition partners the Liberal Democrats. It has been suggested that the UK’s better-than-average economic recovery and growing jobs market contributed to attracting migrant workers. The Conservatives have now revised their pledge, stating that their goal is cutting migration to long-term sustainable levels. Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper, responding to the figures, stated that the Labour Party would crack down on employment agencies exploiting unskilled migrant workers should Labour come to power in May.

Chinese computer manufacturer Lenovo has been the victim of a cyber-attack. Following the attack, visitors to Lenovo’s website were redirected to an external site. US experts had previously warned that an adware program included on some of the Lenovo’s computers, known as Superfish, contained security risks. Lenovo last week offered users a patch to remove Superfish from their computers, before disabling the program outright due to customer complaints. Superfish had originally been intended to assist users in finding cheaper products online. A hacking group called Lizard Squad has claimed responsibility for the attack. Lizard Squad have previously claimed responsibility for cyber-attacks on Sony.

The Papers

Potential problems for healthy economic development appear on front pages today. The Independent leads with news of “The zero-hours recovery”, reporting that nearly 700,000 people – “a huge increase” – are employed on “controversial low-security contracts”. Under-24s are the group most likely to be in such employment, the paper adds, with the Labour Party attacking what it calls the ‘betrayal of a generation’. The Daily Telegraph leads with news that thousands of “Britain’s high achievers” are taking flight from the country each year for “lucrative jobs abroad”. A far greater number of migrants with “low numeracy skills” have come into Britain at the same time, the paper writes. The Times leads with news that Russia is “ready to turn off Europe’s gas supply” within days, as a raising of stakes over the conflict in Ukraine. Russia’s President Putin has threatened to turn off Ukraine’s gas supply, a move which could have a knock-on effect for the rest of Europe. The Guardian again leads with continuing developments in the HSBC tax avoidance scandal; this time it quotes former HSBC Finance Director Douglas Flint, who told parliament’s Treasury Select Committee that he felt “ashamed but not culpable” for HSBC’s collusion in tax avoidance in Switzerland. Flint sought to shift the blame to local Swiss managers during his appearance before the committee. The Financial Times leads with news that Google is ‘shaking up’ its European units “in face of tougher rules”. The firm has been “a focal point” in the backlash against surveillance and tax avoidance, the paper writes, prompting Google to carry out a corporate restructuring.

British Media on China

On the trial of Huang Zerong: Chinese writer Huang Zerong, 81, also known by his pen name Tie Liu, received a two and a half year suspended jail sentence and a fine for ‘running an illegal business’. Huang had previously written an essay critical of propaganda Chief Liu Yunshan. The story received coverage from the BBC and Guardian, with the latter using an agency piece. The BBC quotes Huang’s lawyer as saying that the Sichuan court, 1,100 miles from his Beijing, had “no jurisdiction”. The Guardian’s piece notes Huang’s previous “vague charge” of causing trouble. Huang’s absence from the court, and representation by a court appointed lawyer, “appeared to indicate that the authorities wanted to wrap up the matter quickly and quietly”.

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