Media Watch 9/4/15

By Rowan Williams

Iran’s President Rouhani has called for a ceasefire in Yemen, while US Secretary of State John Kerry has warned Iran over its alleged support of Yemeni Houthi rebels in the region. In a television address, Rouhani called for an end to air strikes in Yemen by Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies, and requested countries come to a political solution. Iran, however, has been accused of supplying military aid to Yemen’s Houthis, and the United States has warned that it would not stand by should Iran be felt to be destabilising the region. Iran despatched two naval vessels to the Gulf of Aden just south of Yemen on Wednesday. Saudi Arabia, and its US-backed coalition, support Yemen’s ousted President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. Fighting between government and rebel forces has intensified in the southern city of Aden in recent days.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has accused Labour of planning to use Trident, Britain’s nuclear deterrent, as a bargaining chip with the anti-Trident Scottish National Party (SNP). Labour has denied the possibility of such a deal. Labour has previously suggested reducing the number of nuclear-armed submarines from four to three, a position backed by the Liberal Democrats. Britain’s nuclear deterrent is due for replacement within the next decade, with estimates at the cost of a replacement between £15 and £20 billion, though some independent groups put the figure as high as £34 billion. In Michael Fallon’s attack on Labour, Fallon stated that Labour’s willingness to sacrifice Trident shows that Labour Party Leader Ed Miliband is “desperate for power”, also citing Miliband’s alleged betrayal of his brother, David Miliband, in the Labour leadership contest. The Conservative Party’s attacks against Miliband today mark a more personal offensive, as Britain’s political parties continue their election campaigning.

Chinese state broadcaster CCTV is to investigate one of its anchors after a video emerged showing him insulting former Chinese leader Mao Zedong. The anchor, Bi Fujian, was filmed singing a parody song claiming Chinese people suffered under Mao’s rule. The video has since gone viral online. Bi has hosted China’s New Year Gala, reported to be the most watched television programme in the world, since 2011. Though officially supported by the Chinese government, Mao’s legacy can be a divisive issue in modern China. CCTV has said that Bi’s comments had a “serious social impact”, and will be carefully investigated. Netizens have since come to Bi’s defence, with 80 percent in one poll believing Bi should not apologise.

The Papers

Politics is again the issue of the day in most headlines. The Guardian leads with news that the Conservative Party is to “play the Trident card” against Labour. According to Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, Labour would be prepared to ‘barter’ Britain’s nuclear deterrent as part of a pact with the anti-Trident Scottish National Party (SNP). The Times leads with the same story, writing that Conservative politicians are launching “their most personal attack so far” on Labour Party Leader Ed Miliband. Fallon will call Miliband a ‘backstabber’ today over Miliband’s “alleged betrayal of his brother”, the paper writes.  The Daily Telegraph leads with news that Labour’s plan to end the non-domiciled tax status will “spark exodus” from Britain. According to a leading tax barrister in the paper, up to 30,000 of Britain’s 115,000 ‘non-doms’ could leave Britain should the law change. The Financial Times leads with news of Wednesday’s takeover of BG Group by Shell, writing that the move “fuels hopes for wave of energy deals”. The takeover is the oil sector’s “most dramatic response yet to the slide in the price of crude”, the paper reports. The Independent leads with news of a major study suggesting “Sex crime is ‘genetically influenced'”. According to the paper, the study by Oxford University found that having a father or brother convicted of a sex crime “can increase risk of offending by up to five times”.

British Media on China

On the investigation of CCTV anchor Bi Fujian: Bi Fujian’s filmed insulting of Chairman Mao, and the announced investigation from CCTV, received coverage from the BBC and The Guardian. The BBC writes that insulting Chairman Mao remains “a taboo”, and that that his legacy is “growing in popularity among those who feel China has moved too far away from his communist ideals”. Commentators were “divided” on Bi’s fate, the BBC writes. The Guardian notes that many in China still “revere” Mao Zedong.

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