Media Watch 9/3/15

By Rowan Williams

One of the men involved in the murder of Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov has been linked to the Kremlin-backed leader of Chechnya, a Russian court has heard. Chechen Zaur Dadayev was one of five men, all Chechen, who appeared in court on Sunday linked with the killing of Nemtsov. The trial’s Judge cited the heavy weight of evidence implicating Dadayev in the murder, as well as Dadayev’s own confession, in confirming his involvement in Nemtsov’s murder. Nemtsov was shot dead near the Kremlin in Moscow on 27 February. Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov stated on Sunday evening that Zaur had served in one of his battalions, and that he had known him as a “genuine Russian patriot”. Kadyrov speculated that Dadayev, whom he described as deeply religious, may have been offended by Nemtsov’s support of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed printed in French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. Many of Nemtsov’s allies have sought to blame Russian President Vladimir Putin for the murder. President Putin has pushed for a full investigation into the murder, which he states he has taken personal control of.

The government’s anti-extremism ‘Prevent’ strategy has become a toxic brand, according to a former senior Muslim police officer. Retired Chief Superintendent Dal Babu said that several officers involved in the programme had shown a basic misunderstanding of faith and race issues. Muslims, meanwhile, mistrust the programme and see it as spying, Babu said. According to Babu, the majority of counter-terrorism officers being white meant that many do not fully understand issues of Islam, race and gender. The Prevent programme is part of the government’s counter-terrorism strategy, and aims to prevent radicalisation. It costs £40 million annually, and the Home Office claims it has trained 130,000 people to help identify extremism. Mr Babu states that Muslim organisations that involve themselves with the Prevent strategy have seen a loss of credibility within the Muslim community.

One of China’s most senior politicians has reiterated that a ruling in 2014 to screen candidates for leadership elections in Hong Kong was the correct decision, in a further sign of Beijing’s resolve on the issue. Zhang Dejiang, head of the National People’s Congress (NPC) and member of the Politburo Standing Committee, stated on Sunday that the NPC had the right to make decisions on how best to move towards universal suffrage in Hong Kong. The ruling in August last year to screen leadership candidates lead to weeks of unrest in Hong Kong, with tens of thousands attending pro-democracy protests at their peak. Last week, Zhang told Hong Kong delegates that advocating Hong Kong independence would be ‘crossing a line’.

The Papers

Job cuts and military matters appear on a few headlines today. The Daily Telegraph leads with news that the Army could face job cuts “to just 50,000 troops”, the lowest level since the 1770s. The cuts, if made, are an estimate made following potential defence spending cuts reported over the weekend. The Guardian leads with news of calls for the establishment of “an EU army to face up to Moscow threat”. According to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, such an army is vital for the EU to be taken seriously. Conservative EU Ministers have said that the UK’s participation in such an army would be detrimental to relations with non-EU countries. The Financial Times leads with news of cuts in the Department for Work and Pensions, with as many as 30,000 job cuts to come after the general election. The cuts would be made over five years and amount to a third of all jobs in the ministry. The government has dismissed news of such cuts as speculation. The Conservative Party’s “attack campaign” over a potential Labour election pact with the Scottish National Party makes the headlines in The Times, meanwhile. The campaign will attempt to exploit public fears over such a pact, depicting Labour Leader Ed Miliband as “in Alex Salmond’s breast pocket”. The Independent leads with news that some teachers are “bullying their gay pupils”: one in five homosexual teenagers report bullying from adults at schools. The research by the National AIDS trust also found that poor sex education lessons were linked to a rise in HIV infections in younger people.

British Media on China

On UK-Hong Kong relations: A slightly older analysis today due to a lack of China stories. On Friday, UK MPs in the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee urged the UK government to speak up for democracy in Hong Kong, a former British territory. While the story was somewhat eclipsed on the day by the Guangzhou rail station knife attack, it was covered by the BBC, Guardian, and Daily Telegraph. The BBC reports that implicit in the Committee’s request was the suggestion that failure to speak out on principles “could damage Britain’s reputation”. The Daily Telegraph focuses more on the economic side, reporting the warning that Hong Kong “could lose its position” as a global financial hub unless Britain takes further action. The Guardian’s agency piece on the story reports that Hong Kong’s pro-democracy legislators have thanked UK MPs for highlighting their concerns for the territory.

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